TV Makes Fun of Itself ... Badly
“Not Just Another Cable News Show” on CNN
CNN’s “Not Just Another Cable News Show” stands alongside FOX Sports Net’s “The Best Damn Sports Show Period” as the most bluntly declarative TV show title of the 21st century. Whether either is factually correct is open to debate.
“Not Just Another Cable News Show” debuted last month, adding a thin sheen of “entertainment” to CNN’s glossy, logo-filled lineup of repetitive headlines. Cynically, you could look at “NJACNS” as an obvious attempt by CNN to mine its archives for cheap content. Or you could view it as a vain overture by the network to create some sort of “hip” Gen-X-skewing news show in the style of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report.” The first statement is perfectly accurate. The second is correct in theory, but not in practice. Having CNN produce a savvy, mainstream-media-skewering parody of television news is a bit like asking Colonel Sanders to be a spokesperson for PETA.
Instead of ripping off “The Daily Show,” CNN went the easy route and photocopied VH1’s talking head flashback shows “I Love The 80s,” “I Love The 70s,” “I Love The 90s,” “I Love Toys” and “Best Week Ever.” The format is painfully simple: Throw up some old video footage, have a bunch of C-list comedians provide snarky commentary, roll credits. With VH1 monopolizing all the fine C-list talent, CNN is obliged to go with a sub-D-grade mixture of comics and pundits like Steve Burguiere, Ana Marie Cox, Hugh Fink, Amanda Melson and Chris Regan. Regan was a writer on “The Daily Show,” Fink was a writer for “Saturday Night Live,” Burguiere is executive producer of “The Glenn Beck Program” on Premiere Radio Networks. Talk about a star-stunted lineup. Geez, when you can’t convince Mo Rocca to come on your show and gas on about something pop cultural, you are really scraping the bottom of the barrel.
So, “NJACNS” consists largely of anonymous talking heads sitting in front of ancient news coverage of Gary Hart (’Member him? Huh? Huh?) and snickering over the fact that his boat was named “Monkey Business.” (’Cause, ya know, he was fooling around with Donna Rice. Monkey Business: Wotta coincidence!) Following the umpteenth clip of George Bush uttering his immortal line, “I know how hard it is to put food on your family,” Regan cracks wise, saying, “It was part of the No Child Left Ungravyed program.” These are the jokes, folks.
Lame as “Best Week Ever” is sometimes, it at least has the advantage of being current. At a minimum, predictable Amy Winehouse jokes capture some sort of zeitgeist. “NJACNS” has the misguided temerity to ask comedians to dust off their best Michael Dukakis jibes. ... Personally, I can’t wait until they get around to poking fun at file footage of Hurricane Katrina.
“Not Just Another Cable News Show” airs every Saturday at 5 p.m. on CNN.