Booze, Schmooze, but Not Any News: The “Today” Show Fourth Hour

 

 

 

 by WALTER BRASCH 

 

The most important media story this past week is that the Kardashians were guest co-hosts on the fourth hour of NBC’s “Today” show. One Kardashian sister per day, plus mother Kris and stepdad Bruce Jenner.

It isn’t bad enough that talk shows, which have descended into a morass of being publicity mills for celebrity hucksters, adore them. It isn’t bad enough that the E! cable network, owned by NBCUniversal, throws millions of dollars to create and promote their reality shows that are as real as unicorns and fairy dust. Now we have Kardashians in NBC’s Studio 1A, the window on New York City.

The three sisters are Kourtney, 32; Kim, 30; and Khloé, 27. Their mother is Kris, 54. Other than Jenner, whose career stems from having been an Olympian gold medalist and Wheaties box icon, the rest seem to have few discernible talents or skills, other than being celebutantes, socialites, and models. Even their various businesses exist only because they have the Kardashian name, earned because of Robert, a high-profile lawyer, who became a household name by defending O.J.

Upon their name, the three sisters wrote an autobiography and once again are about to leap to the best-sellers chart with a novel. There is no evidence that any of the three can write; there is evidence that bookstores and Americans buy books because of name recognition rather than talent.

But the real loser during Kardashian Week may be the integrity of NBC’s News Division. News, not Entertainment, produces the fourth hour, co-hosted by Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford. At one time, Kotb was a good journalist. Now, with a larger paycheck and her hair dyed an unnatural blonde, she and Kathie Lee Gifford, herself an excellent singer/writer, co-host the fourth hour.

That fourth hour is filled with diets, makeovers, fashion, food, relationship advice, and celebrities huckstering their latest films, TV shows, and books. There are frequent short segments devoted to displaying semi-wild animals, the “ahhhh” factor in TV entertainment. But since Hoda, who has covered wars and natural disasters, seems to be afraid of any animal less cuddly than bedroom bunny slippers, those segments seem to be inserted into the show not as information but to give the audience an at-home laugh track to Hoda’s reactions. It makes little difference anyhow, since Hoda and Kathie Lee usually talk over whoever is trying to explain a little bit about each animal.

A typical show begins with Hoda and Kathie Lee interrupting each other with a few minutes of chatter. The chatter and interruptions occur throughout the rest of the hour. The guests, in rapid sequence, may actually have something important to say, but the endless babbling and cross-talk seemingly leave them little more than chum in a swirling pool of drunken steroidal fish.

Drinking is part of the fourth hour. Every day has at least a few seconds, often an entire segment, with the two co-hosts talking about booze and liquor, and then having demonstrations of how to make mixed drinks. Even the days are named. One day is “Booze Day Tuesday”; another is “Thirsty Thursday.” Guest co-host Seth Rogen two weeks ago had said he had never had a drink that early on TV. Hoda, joking it up, responded on the show’s Facebook page that the “operative words” were “on TV.” It isn’t too outrageous to believe that by the end of the Today’s final hour, even AA mentors are tempted to take a swig just to ease their pain.

Because the “Today” producers are “with it” and “one with social networking,” they underline the on-air show with audience contact through Facebook and Twitter. During the hour, Sara Haines conveys fan email to the co-hosts and occasionally discusses technology. There is no evidence she is a technology guru, just as there is no logic why she, like the two co-hosts, are bottle blondes.

Legendary TV pioneer Sylvester (“Pat”) Weaver created the “Today” show in 1952, filling a daily two-hour program with news and features. Two years later, now NBC’s president, he created the “Tonight” show.

For all but eight years of its 59 year run, “Today” has been the ratings leader in its two-hour time slot, mostly following the basic formula that Weaver established.

In 2000, NBC added a third hour. In September 2007, NBC expanded “Today” to the fourth hour. Kotb was the original co-host, along with Ann Curry and Natalie Morales. Gifford replaced Curry and Morales a few months later. After a dip in the ratings, the fourth hour again took over its time slot, adding to the News Division’s profit, a reason why it would do everything possible to stonewall any attempt to move that hour into the Entertainment Division where it belongs. The show itself is little more than an amalgamation of the worst parts of Cosmopolitan, Us Weekly, and just about any TV entertainment-and-gossip show.

Kardashian Week may have brought in greater ratings. It’s also why middle-class America willingly bathes in the limelight of the rich and famous, even those with little ability other than having created a following who make them famous for reasons no one yet understands.

[Walter Brasch is an a award-winning syndicated columnist and media analyst. His latest book is the fast-paced mystery Before the First Snow.]

 

 

 

Weekly Pulse: Sharron Angle Mocks Insurance for Autism; The Fight to Save Food Stamps

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

The woman gunning for Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-NV) job doesn’t believe that autism exists.

Yes, you heard right. Sharron Angle believes that the neurodevelopmental disorder know to medical science as “autism” is actually a government-backed hoax to redistribute wealth from hardworking health insurers to pesky kids and their greedy parents.

Angle was caught on tape promising to abolish mandatory insurance coverage for autism. “Everything that they want to throw at us is covered under ‘autism’,” Angle told the American Association of Underwriters this summer, tracing scare quotes with her fingers as she said “autism.”

Care2’s Kristina Chew, the mother of a 13-year-old boy with autism, responds to Angle’s airy dismissal:

…By saying that you don’t think there should be health care for autism, I take it that you don’t think that children, and individuals, with disabilities are in need of such things—living with their families and in their communities, healthy and safe, being loved and cared for? Being treated as we would all like to be?

The fact that Angle opposes mandated coverage for private insurers should concern voters, especially since she wants to privatize all government health care programs. In other words, Angle wants to turn health care over to the private sector and stamp out public competition. And yet, Angle’s campaign admits that the candidate and her husband receive both government health care and a Civil Service pension, according to Eric Kleefeld of TPM. If Angle is so morally opposed to government health care, she should set an example by declining the coverage.

Andy Kroll of Mother Jones has more on Angle’s record: She once told impregnated rape victims to buck up and make “lemons out of lemonade” by bearing their attacker’s child. Angle also denounced people on unemployment insurance as “spoiled.”

Food vs. health care

It may soon get even harder for poor families to make ends meet. The Senate is poised to slash the extra food stamp benefits in the stimulus before they expire. The Senate already raided $6.7 billion from the the so-called “food stamp cookie jar” to bail out Medicaid and save teachers’ jobs at the state level. Now they want to take even more money to fund the child nutrition bill.

The cuts would fund a marginal improvement in school lunches, notes Monica Potts of TAPPED. That’s all well and good, but why provide slightly better weekday lunches if the poorest children get less at every other meal?

Annie Lowery of the Washington Independent interviews anti-hunger activist Joel Berg about the cuts. Berg says that if the cuts go through, families will have to make do with considerably less than the current $4.50 per person per day. He notes that Congress wants to cut food stamp benefits in the face of rising food prices.

When families make do with less, healthy foods like fruits and vegetables will be the first casualty. Berg argues that it is economically short-sighted to prematurely terminate one of the most efficient economic stimuli in the entire stimulus package:

And we know that we aren’t only feeding people. We come at this from a moral position, a nutritional position, and an economic recovery position. This cut is so insane from an economic position as well — we know food stamps are the most effect form of stimulus. The jury is still out on parts of the stimulus — but the jury isn’t out on food stamps. It was a 1,000 percent, beyond home run grand slam success, if you’ll excuse me mixing metaphors. The money went to people who needed it, rapidly, and without a lot of bureaucracy.

In the Progressive, Ruth Conniff has a personal take on the politics of improving school lunches. Her kids’ school got a USDA Fresh Fruits and Vegetables grant to introduce more local produce into school meals.

“Bridalplasty”

The laws of Reality TV: 1) The most important thing in life is to be very beautiful so that a man will want to marry you; 2) You have until your wedding day to make yourself look like someone else.

The E! network is launching a new reality show in which brides-to-be receive free cosmetic surgery to make them look acceptable for their Special Day, as Stephanie Hallett reports at Ms. blog. Hallett notes that armchair psychiatrists are already diagnosing the contestants with Body Dysmorphic Disorder, a condition that causes sufferers to become obsessed with imagined physical imperfections.

Hallett also argues that competitive plastic surgery shows like Bridalplasty and The Swan are dramatic exaggerations. Labeling the contestants as “sick” or “crazy” implies that they are limited-edition freaks, not individuals on the extreme end of a continuum of self-loathing that affects most women.

Ectopic pregnancy

Anti-choicers have already attacked hormonal birth control as crypto-abortion. Their next target may be lifesaving surgery for a deadly complication of pregnancy. At RH Reality Check, Lon Newman writes about a young woman that survived a life threatening ectopic pregnancy.

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg takes root outside the uterus, nearly always in a fallopian tube. Tubal pregnancies are among the deadliest gynecological emergencies because the woman can rapidly bleed to death if the tube ruptures. Obviously, once a fertilized egg takes root outside the uterus, there is no chance that it will survive. However, some anti-choice extremists still maintain that treating ectopic pregnancies is a kind of abortion.

One of the ectopic pregnancy survivor’s friends actually told her that she should have respected “God’s will” and refused lifesaving surgery. “I have had friends who said that I should have ‘gone with God’s will,’ imposing their beliefs on my will to live,” the woman said.

Some friend.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

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