Alibi V.14 No.44 • Nov 3-9, 2005 

Idiot Box

“Truthiness” Be Told

“The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central

Comedy Central has finally found a perfect companion to its hit series “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” by commissioning a spin-off series for regular contributor Stephen Colbert. The show is styled after personality-driven talking-head TV commentators, pundits like Bill O'Reilly who don't report the news so much as parrot party-line opinions about the news so that like-minded individuals can feel good about themselves by agreeing wholeheartedly.

“Your voice will finally be heard,” Colbert has assured viewers, “in the form of my voice.” Colbert's show, “The Colbert Report” (both “t”'s are silent), is an even more daffy parody of current TV news trends than its predecessor, allowing the witty, well-spoken comedian to wax rhapsodic on the day's headlines. Keeping with current journalistic trends (like those espoused most loudly by FOX News), “The Colbert Report” is a red, white and blue-draped morality play that concentrates on “truthiness.”

Colbert has already fashioned a few classic segments, including the daily “Threatdown,” which enumerates the top five things we Americans should be terrified of on any given day--from avian flu to bear attacks. Slightly less successful are Colbert's interview segments. What should be vicious, knockdown, drag-out riffs on screaming cable “debates” featuring never-wrong commentators like O'Reilly/Scarborough/Hannity/Cooper are--more often than not--watered-down “Daily Show” interviews with fourth-tier celebrity guests. Perhaps Colbert hasn't been around long enough to bait many politicians and pundits into going along with the joke. (Oh, to see Colbert and Zell Miller gnawing at each other in mock outrage.)

To be sure, Colbert hasn't had as much time in the chair as Jon Stewart. He occasionally muffs a line or two and doesn't quite look as comfortable when the guests show up. This may be because Colbert is doing far more of a “character” than Stewart is. Call him the clueless, college-educated white guy in the Brooks Brothers suit. Still, there's no reason not to believe he'll ease into the gig with polished, pointed perfection. (Perhaps easing our sadness over the loss of Steve Carell.)

Given the state of TV news today, Colbert's straight-faced takeoff shows just how thin the line between serious television journalism and utter stupidity really is. Watch and learn, people. ... Oh, and laugh.

“The Colbert Report” airs every weekday at 9:30 p.m. on Comedy Central.