By Chez Pazienza: I moved into a new place in Los Angeles over the weekend. My decision to ultimately put down roots here was the somewhat unexpected culmination of three-and-a-half years spent wandering the wasteland in the aftermath of the break-up of my marriage; since everything went to shit, I’ve pretty much lived out of a suitcase and just moved from place to place, content not to have anything in my life that could be deemed stable simply because my ex-wife taught me in unequivocal terms that nothing is stable, even if you think it is. But you’ve gotta take a chance again at some point, and I’m finally ready to do that.
I bring all of this up because, given that I’m starting over completely from scratch, I don’t own a TV at the moment. I’ll probably be picking one up over the next couple of days, but for the time being my apartment is mercifully devoid of white noise — which is really all television is anymore, particularly the cable news and election season punditry that my job requires me to pay an at least perfunctory level of attention to.
So, no, I didn’t see Sarah Palin host NBC’s Today show this morning. And I have no doubt that I’m all the better for it. That being said, I don’t need to have seen it to know exactly how it played out and to understand that putting Palin’s stupid ass in front of a camera in a desperate attempt to fend off a threat from a rival network and generate a few extra ratings points while creating a headline or two is really the final nail in the coffin of the once mighty NBC News department. Admittedly, every time I think NBC News has sunk to the lowest point possible — airing the video manifesto of Virginia Tech killer Seung-Hui Cho, exactly as he’d wanted; using news resources and programming to promote its crappy prime time shows and to cross-promote other NBC-Uni networks; making the “N” in NBC stand for “nepotism” by hiring the kids of every big name at the network and every shithead politician in America over real journalists; giving Al Shapton a show, etc. — its team of crack surveyors astonishingly finds new depths to plumb. Inexplicably giving air time to a woman who’s not only proven herself over and over again to be an intellectual featherweight but whose entire vaudevillian shtick involves the ceaseless demonization of media outlets like NBC — there’s just no excuse for that. Not from an ostensibly serious and responsible news operation, one interested in imparting information to the public rather than being little more than another engine for asshole reality TV “celebrities” to ply their wares.
I haven’t heard NBC make half-assed excuses in an attempt to defend its decision to put someone like Palin on the air, but I have to assume that that’s because by this point anyone with a brain has given up and moved on, content to leave NBC News President Steve Capus to giddily wallow in the cesspool he’s created. What’s interesting, though, is the transparent train of thought that went into the decision to give Palin a platform on NBC at the same time ex-Today show host Katie Couric was staking out space over at Good Morning America. In keeping with, again, NBC’s diminishing of its news programming to the status of the ultimate reality TV show, the network suits obviously figured that putting Palin opposite Couric would be the ultimate grudge match, seeing as how Couric legendarily embarrassed Palin on national television a few years back by, you know, asking her questions about what she liked to read. Today show execs saw an opportunity to create controversy and buzz by staging a clumsy rematch on the airwaves and they grabbed onto it with both hands, thoroughly sublimating the fact that by acknowledging Palin’s lingering resentment toward Couric they were implicitly agreeing that Couric may have done something wrong — that the anger Palin feels at being made a fool of is somehow justified and can be blamed on anyone other than her idiot self.
It’s shameful that NBC put Palin on the air. Shameful, but not unexpected — not from NBC. As someone who worked for the network for years, it’s painful to admit that I’d rather not have a TV than have one that gives me access to such deplorable news product.
Although, hey, for one hour Donald Trump wasn’t the most grotesquely opportunistic right-wing reality TV star being given a platform and a paycheck by NBC — so, bravo, guys.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.