Here's what you may have missed on Nightly News this week: Ukuleles, narcoleptic dogs, kids with cancer and breaking news about Max Page and Justin Bieber.
Sat. June 9--Are you kidding me? Obviously there was no Nightly News today because of the Belmont Stakes. Once again, NBC devoted two-and-a-half hours of programming to a two-minute horse race. And don't we all feel horrible that I'll Have Another was scratched from the race? It's just awful that NBC's Belmont ratings took a major hit because there was now no possibility of a Triple Crown winner. Why do bad things always happen to good TV networks?
Sun. June 10--The lead story was "Extreme Weather". Again. For nearly four minutes. Forget all the important stories breaking across the country and around the world--Nightly News has to report the weather. I guess when you spend $3.5 billion for The Weather Channel (as NBC Universal did a few years ago), you better make sure to use it. Every single night.
***In a story about White House damage control, a clip from "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" once again omitted Stephanopoulos's name from the on-screen credit. It was credited only to "ABC News/This Week". This was not an accident or an oversight. The Nightly News producers refuse to even mention Stephanopoulos because he's a competitor of NBC's David Gregory. Apparently, the producers are scared that even mentioning a rival will cause "Meet The Press" to lose viewers. Astonishingly petty.
***Lester Holt took 30 seconds to tell us about the rainout at the French Open tennis tournament. He also made sure to tell us that the match would be concluded Monday morning on the NBC Sports Network. So this was really just a promotional ad for an NBC sporting event. Does Nightly News ever cover sporting events that don't air on NBC? Rarely.
***Lester then took a combined 40 seconds to tell us that Britain's Prince Philip was out of the hospital and that Gabby Giffords has endorsed her former aide to fill her vacant seat in the House. The NBC News research department has obviously informed the Nightly News producers that Prince Philip and Gabby Giffords are enormously popular with viewers, so they make a point of reporting on them as often as possible. As usual, the news on Nightly News is refracted through the prism of ratings.
***The final story of the night was one of the most idiotic things I have ever seen on Nightly News, or on any news broadcast, for that matter. I know I say that all the time, but this time it's especially true. It was a story about the resurgent popularity of the ukulele. Really. I mean it. That was the story. There was nothing more to it. This "news story" consisted of two-and-a-half minutes of footage of people playing the ukulele and talking about how cool it is. Among those shown playing was Tiny Tim (on an old "Rowan & Martin's Laugh In" episode) and Zooey Deschanel (on "Saturday Night Live"). So not only was this a moronic story, but it also served the purpose of plugging some NBC properties (NBC earns money from DVD sales of both programs). Great work, Nightly News producers. This idiotic story was reported by the idiotic Kevin Tibbles, whose recent body of work also includes stories on Pringles Snack Chips and Barbie's 53rd birthday. I certainly hope the Peabody Award Selection Committee was watching this masterpiece. I guess that compared to this pathetic story, the weather really is a major piece of news. By the way, throughout the broadcast, Lester read four promos for the ukulele story, totalling 38 seconds. Earlier, he spent 22 seconds reporting a story on Syria. So the ukulele promos alone were given almost twice as much time as the entire Syria story. That's Nightly News for you. Always concerned with reporting important news.
Mon. June 11--A story about the wildfires in the western states included a 15-second segment about the origin of Smokey the Bear, including a photo of the original bear cub that inspired the character. This is the third consecutive weeknight that Nightly News has included photos or video of bears. This is no coincidence--it's how Brian and his producers operate. They pick a particular animal and then feature it regularly--like the way a top-40 DJ puts a particular song into heavy rotation. Sometimes it's pandas, sometimes it's penguins, sometimes it's polar bears (dogs are a perennial presence on Nightly News because Brian likes them--they're the "Stairway to Heaven" in Brian's animal rotation). Beginning last September, Nightly News featured seven "news stories" about whales in a two-month period (and two more whale stories in the ensuing months). Obviously, Brian and his producers report so frequently on animals not because there's any actual news involved, but because viewers love to see cute animals and it helps boost the ratings. So in June, bears are the animal of the month. I predict that there will be lots of bear sightings on Nightly News throughout the summer.
***Here's how Brian introduced a story about two hit and run car accidents involving U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson: "In this country, a lot of US woke up to a bizarre story out of the west coast...." Us. Because the news is first and foremost about Brian. And during his narration, there was the obligatory waving flag animation behind him because any story that involves a U.S. official is an opportunity to pander to the viewers' sense of faux patriotism. Exploiting the flag for ratings--well done, Brian.
***I laughed so hard at the next story that Mountain Dew almost shot out of my nose. It was a story about the economy--reported by Anne Thompson. The producers usually give her easy stuff to report on (the environment, entertainment, I'll Have Another being scratched from the Belmont Stakes) because she's not very bright. So hearing her trying to explain the economy was kind of painful. It was like listening to a Miss America contestant struggling to answer a question that she really has no clue about (the comparison between Anne Thompson and a Miss America contestant definitely ends there). My favorite part of this story was when we learned that family net worth declined 39% from 2007-2010. I wonder how Brian's net worth is doing. Skyrocketing, no doubt. Is it really a good idea to let a multi-millionaire (and member of the 1%) introduce stories about how bad the economy is for all the rest of us in the 99%? It seems kind of condescending, especially since Brian likes to pretend that he's a regular old working-class blue-collar guy. He actually wants us to think of him as a character in a Springsteen song--like he gets up in the morning, puts on his work boots, heads off to the factory, punches in, works for 8 hours and then goes out for a beer with the guys. As if. He really tries to sell himself this way. Is anyone buying that crap? What a weasel.
***The next story was about the latest "Crime Wave" involving the theft of household items like detergent, pain relievers, and health and beauty aids. This isn't exactly breaking news. But reporting news wasn't the point of the story. During this story, the Tide logo was on-screen for a whopping 16 seconds--including Miguel Almaguer holding up a bottle of Tide for 13 consecutive seconds. That's not a news story, it's a product placement. It's exactly the same way that hosts like Johnny Carson used to plug products on their shows. So I wonder how much the Procter & Gamble people paid NBC for this blatant product placement. Maybe Brian will tell us next week. But then again, maybe not.
***Are you getting enough sleep? If not, you're going to have a stroke. At least that's what Nancy Snyderman told us in her story titled "Stroke Risk". This was just another one of Nightly News's alarmist medical stories meant to scare us into not changing the channel. Brian teases the story at the beginning of the broadcast and then we have to stay tuned to find out if we're going to die. This is the 18th alarmist story that Nightly News has done so far this year. Nancy Snyderman should be ashamed of herself for using these stories to boost Brian's ratings. She should be helping people, not scaring them.
***International news is very important to Brian and his producers, so he made sure to tell us that British Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife accidentally left their daughter in a pub. Much of Europe is teetering on the brink of economic collapse, yet this is the only European story Brian reported on the broadcast. Too bad there wasn't other important European news--like the seven stories Nightly News reported last week on the Queen's Jubilee. Good job keeping us informed.
***The broadcast ended with a story about...well, I'm not actually sure what it was about. A Wellesley (Massachusetts) High School teacher named David McCullough, Jr. (son of the historian) gave a commencement address at his high school--and told the kids that they were not special. Imagine that. And this is what merits two-and-a-half minutes of airtime on Nightly News. Wow.
Tues. June 12--Anne Thompson reported another story about the economy. She really just stated the obvious and repeated all the bad news that has been reported lately--the exuberance of the 1990's is over and Americans today are extraordinarily cautious with their finances. Really, Sherlock? You don't say. Thompson reports on the economy in the same way she reports on the environment--repeating the same things over and over. Like a student who writes all her papers right from Wikipedia.
***Next, Nancy Snyderman reported the breaking news that head injuries and concussions are bad for kids. Really? I would never have guessed. The story was centered around Pop Warner football because any football story--even one for kids--helps promote Sunday Night Football on NBC.
***After that, Brian reported that Lindy Chamberlain was finally cleared of the 1980 death of her daughter. Chamberlain had always maintained that a dingo killed her baby, but Australian authorities suspected that Chamberlain was responsible. So how did Brian begin this story? With a clip of Meryl Streep portraying Chamberlain in the film "A Cry In The Dark". Now, there must be hundreds of hours of video of the actual Lindy Chamberlain, but Brian and his brain trust decided to lead with Meryl Streep. The reason is obvious: Lindy Chamberlain doesn't generate ratings, but Meryl Streep does. Brian and his producers constantly force movie and TV clips into news stories because they boost the broadcast's ratings. And this isn't the first time they used a movie clip when actual news footage was available. They did the same thing in the 12/18/10 story about Amelia Earhart possibly surviving her plane crash. There is no shortage of actual Earhart footage, but the producers inserted a gratuitous 20-second clip of Hilary Swank playing Earhart in the movie "Amelia". Well, why show footage of real people when you can show Meryl Streep or Hilary Swank? After all, they have five Oscars between them!
***More breaking news from Brian: Max Page needs heart surgery. You may be wondering, "Who the hell is Max Page?" Don't feel bad. Most people were wondering that. Page is the seven-year-old actor who played a pint-sized Darth Vader in a 2011 Super Bowl Volkswagen commercial. And Brian felt that this story met the criteria for appearing on a network news broadcast. Maybe if Brad Pitt or George Clooney needed heart surgery it would be newsworthy (newsworthy or not, Brian would certainly report it). But Max Page? Give me a break. There are two reasons why Brian reported this story. First, it allowed Brian to show a gratuitous clip from the Volkswagen ad. Brian always likes to thank NBC's sponsors by showing their ads and products on Nightly News. Second (and most important), it allowed Brian to insert himself into the story. The story included footage of Brian clowning around with Max at some event they both attended. Any story that allows Brian to show footage of himself with a celebrity (even a D-list celebrity like Max Page) automatically makes it onto the broadcast. Brian chooses stories based not on their news value, but based on whether he can include himself in the story. Because he is a huge narcissist with a massive fucking ego. Everything has to be about HIM. Could you ever imagine Scott Pelley or Charles Gibson choosing to report a story because it allows them to include footage of themselves? But then again, the comparison is unfair. Pelley and Gibson are journalists, while Brian is a self-promoting carnival barker and snake oil salesman. He has the biggest ego on NBC--and that's a network that also includes Donald Trump. Yes, Brian, we are all very impressed that you once met Max Page. Probably more impressed than Max was after meeting you.
***I think the final story was about George H.W. Bush. I say "I think" because it was so boring that I kept dozing off. The story was "reported" by none other than Jenna Bush Hager, the President's granddaughter. Hager is yet another presidential scion (or relative) that Brian and his NBC cohorts have collected over the years like so many stamps or baseball cards. This list also includes Chelsea Clinton and Ron Reagan (on MSNBC), and used to include Maria Shriver (and may yet again). Obviously, Hager was given a cushy on-air broadcasting job because of her name, not her talent (see also Russert, Luke). Pres. Bush talked about his socks, about his grandchildren, about growing old and about pretending not to hear people talk. Then he read an excerpt from a letter he wrote to his children. Then Hager cried. At least she understands what's expected of her. Hager's interview with her grandfather was so boring it was like watching tsunami debris dry. But I guess I can't really blame her. She did the best she could. And this story was clearly meant for a lighter-fare broadcast like "The Today Show" rather than Nightly News (although "Today" is only slightly more frivolous than Nightly News). What a waste of three minutes. By the way, this story was titled "All In The Family" because the Nightly News producers make a practice of naming their stories after movies, TV shows, songs or albums. When you're unimaginative and lack originality (like the Nightly News producers) you have to steal titles from the mainstream media. Also, it keeps the viewers engaged by showing them recognizable titles. Some other recent examples: "The Rising", "Coming To America", "Moonstruck" (three times), "Risky Business" (four times), "Modern Family", "A Star Is Born", "Ring Of Fire", "The Natural" and "Father Knows Best". And that's only in the past two months. Here's a movie title that would describe Brian and his producers: "Dumb and Dumber".
Wed. June 13--During his intro at the top of the broadcast, Brian said, "The Sandusky trial--the interview from our 'Rock Center' broadcast that was center stage today...." Later, the story about the Sandusky trial contained a 32-second clip from Bob Costas's interview with Sandusky on "Rock Center". Of course. Because the news is always about Brian and his TV shows. Is there anyone on television more self-obsessed than Brian? No.
***A story about Jamie Dimon and JPMorgan Chase was titled "Risky Business". Another news story with a movie title. This is the fifth time in the past month that a JPMorgan Chase story was given that title. As usual, Brian and his producers assign titles that are the names of movies, TV shows, songs or albums as a way of pandering to the viewers' thirst for pop culture stories. A lot of viewers probably thought they would see clips of Tom Cruise and Rebecca De Mornay.
***A story about a new sleeping pill included 20 seconds of video of narcoleptic dogs. Another way that Brian and his producers pander to viewers is by filling their news stories with animal videos. After all, what's cuter than narcoleptic dogs? Here's how correspondent/shill Robert Bazell ended his story: "But if it does prove safe in the long run, it will be because man's best friend offered a big clue to help a sleepless nation." I'm surprised that idiotic closing wasn't accompanied by the "Lassie" theme music. Why not skip the news story entirely and just show the narcoleptic dog videos?
***Here's how Brian began his obituary for mobster Henry Hill: "Just so we all agree here, it's never good to glorify a mobster." And then he spends the next 55 seconds doing just that. He told us that Hill was "superbly played by Ray Liotta in the Scorsese masterpiece...." Since when is it the job of a news reader to offer his personal opinions about films? Well, if you're Brian Williams, then it's your job. Because Brian thinks of himself as an arbiter of pop culture and never misses a chance to let us know how much he knows about films or music. Or anything else.
***Hey--guess what? Tsunami debris is washing ashore in the U.S. And Brian plans to do a story on every single piece of it. This night, he reported the third Nightly News story about the floating dock that washed ashore in Oregon. He also told us thar FedEx was returning some of the debris to Japan. He said this because it gave him a chance to say that FedEx was "channeling the spirit of Tom Hanks" from the movie "Cast Away". As usual, every Nightly News story boils down to a movie reference.
***The final story was a "Making A Difference" piece about an organization that encourages kids with cancer to take photographs. That's nice, but it's not news. This was really just another Nightly News story whose goal was to exploit kids with cancer. They run these these types of emotionally heart-wrenching stories frequently because they're popular with viewers. So kids with cancer equals good ratings for Brian Williams. He must be so proud of himself. At the end of this story, the idiotic Chris Jansing called one kid's photo "stunning". Stunning? Really? Maybe Jansing should become a photography critic because she's certainly no journalist.
***Also on this day, bombings in Iraq killed at least 90 Shi'ites. But Brian ignored this story because foreign news gets crappy ratings. But at least we know all about tsunami debris, narcoleptic dogs and kids with cancer. Great job, Brian.
Thurs. June 14--The lead story about Obama and Romney contained a double flag during Brian's intro. In addition to the ever-present waving flag animation behind Brian, a box over his left shoulder showed the President standing in front of two large flags. Brian and his producers make a point of putting as many flags as possible on the broadcast each night because Nightly News is obviously the most patriotic news show on the air.
***Later, we saw a story about a woman who has three daughters who need bone marrow transplants. Technically, this may not be a kids-with-cancer story, but the premise is basically the same--using sick kids to pull at the viewers' heartstrings and boost Brian's ratings. This story was a shorter version of a story that would air later that night on "Rock Center", so Brian is also using sick kids to try and boost his meager "Rock Center" ratings. He actually ended the story with this shameless plug: "And we urge all of you to join us tonight...on 'Rock Center' at 10:00, 9:00 central time." He urges us. How pathetic--begging people to watch his lame show. By the way, his desperate plea didn't work. That night's "Rock Center" got a measly .8 rating and a 2 share in the important 18-to-49 demographic group. For the second consecutive week, "Rock Center" actually managed to lose viewers from NBC's 9 PM show, the poorly-reviewed Canadian import "Saving Hope". Maybe Brian should change the name of "Rock Center" to "No Hope of Being Saved".
***"Lookout Below!" That was the title of the next story. An asteroid is passing by Earth, although there is zero chance of a collision. No matter--Brian reports every single story that has to do with outer space. After all, it's his broadcast and he can report whatever the hell he wants, right? Right. Here's an idea: How about reporting when an asteroid is going to hit us, not when it's going to miss us.
***Now it was time for a very important story--an update on Max Page's condition. As Brian told us on Tuesday, Max Page (a seven-year-old kid who played Darth Vader in a Volkswagen commercial) needed heart surgery. Great news--the surgery went well! I certainly hope Brian will keep us appraised of Max's condition every night on Nightly News.
***Hold the presses--there's something even more important than Max Page's condition. Here's how Brian told it: "New York City officials are reporting an outbreak just about 200 yards from our studio here in New York. It's an outbreak of fever--oh, that would be Bieber Fever. The Beebs will be performing live on the plaza tomorrow morning on 'Today' and already tonight it looks like a tiny Woodstock. The true believers have been waiting already for days." Seriously? This is a news report on a network newscast? There are so many things wrong with this. First of all, Brian seems way too excited about a Justin Bieber concert. And a grown man referring to him as "the Beebs"--well, that's just creepy. And, of course, this was all just a weaselly promo for "The Today Show" (the story ended with a full-screen promo card promoting Bieber's "Today" appearance). So the asteroid story, the Max Page story and the Justin Bieber story together took up more than a minute. These are the most deserving news stories Brian could come up with to fill that time? When is the FCC finally going to shut down Nightly News and ban Brian from ever working in news again?
***The broadcast ended with a 2:05 story about Sue Falsone. Is she an ascending politician? Is she working on a cure for a rare disease? Is she helping to fight hunger in Africa? No--she's the head athletic trainer for the L.A. Dodgers baseball team. And Brian feels that this qualifies as news? Don't be silly. Brian doesn't report stories because they're newsworthy, he reports stories because they boost his ratings. Remember, a narcissist does things for his own benefit, not for the benefit of others. Before the final commercial break, a promo for this story was accompanied by the Doors' "L.A. Woman" because playing classic rock songs is a great way to help the ratings. And the story was titled "A League of Her Own"--clearly meant to evoke the Tom Hanks-Geena Davis movie "A League of Their Own".
***Also on this day, British Prime Minister David Cameron testified before the Leveson Inquiry, which is investigating the Rupert Murdoch phone hacking scandal. Naturally, Brian didn't report this story because he only reports on David Cameron when he leaves his daughter in a pub. Just like he only reports on German Chancellor Angela Merkel when someone spills beer on her. Because Brian is a sleazebag who is completely devoid of integrity, morality or ethics.
Fri. June 15--The lead story was Pete Williams's report on President Obama's amnesty for some illegal aliens. As always, Pete Williams is my hero. Every time Brian introduces him with a treacly "Good evening, Pete", Pete just ignores him and jumps right into his story. Obviously, Pete Williams is a professional who isn't interested in exchanging idiotic pleasantries with an egocentric anchor who is desperate to convince the viewers that the correspondents really like him. You go, Pete!
***After that, David Gregory was trotted out to spend two minutes "analyzing" the situation that Pete Williams had just told us all about. Translation: His appearance was just a silly promo for Sunday's "Meet The Press".
***As Brian introduced Richard Engel's report on the possibility of the Muslim Brotherhood winning the Egyptian election, he said this: "Richard, I have to say when YOU AND I were in Tahrir Square in the thick of it we knew this was a possibility." You and I. Because the news is always about Brian. And I love how Brian tries to put himself in the same category as Richard Engel--like they're both cut from the same cloth. Engel is a respected journalist who travels around the world reporting important stories. Brian is a cuddly house cat, a news reader who occasionally leaves the studio to spray his scent on news stories long after people like Engel have alreday done the hard work. Brian just shows up in places like Tahrir Square and says, "Wow--look at this!" And "in the thick of it"? How many armed body guards did Brian have with him in Tahrir Square? And here it is 16 months later and Brian is still shamelessly self-promoting by showing old video of himself (as he did on May 23) and making references to the few days he spent in one of Cairo's luxury hotels. That's just sad.
***Next, we got a story abour the Watergate break-in because reporting 40-year-old news is more important to Brian than reporting current news. Well, at least the situation is improving. On June 6, Brian reported a breaking news story about the Lincoln assassination. At least with Watergate, he's moved into the 20th century.
***Brian took 30 seconds to bid goodbye to long-time WNBC anchor Sue Simmons, who was forced to retire this week. "And those of US who have been so proud to work with her wish her nothing but the very best." Oh I get it. This wasn't really a story about Sue Simmons, it was a story about Brian having worked with her. That sounds about right.
***The final story was an idiotic "Making A Difference" piece (that's actually redundant) about a doctor who actually listens to her patients. Wow--I guess she's the only doctor in the whole country who does that. And Nightly News managed to find her. What a stupid way to waste 2:20 of valuable news time.
***Here's how Brian signed off from the broadcast: "Happy Father's Day to all my fellow dads and let's remember those serving overseas who can't be here with their families." Really? Since when is it the job of a news reader to tell the viewers to remember a particular group? It's obvious that Brian's fawning obsequious teen crush on anyone in a military uniform makes it impossible for him to objectively report on the U.S. Armed Forces. And "all my fellow dads"? Once again, Brian has to make it all about HIM. He couldn't just say "to all the dads out there", could he? Of course not. Because it's always about him. Always.