Tuesday, February 25, 2014

47 Ronans: Your ass, NBC’s new faces

Posted By on Tue, Feb 25, 2014 at 1:46 PM

So Alec Baldwin is retiring from public life. But don’t worry: By Baldwin’s standards, that just means he’ll be cutting back to hitting people every other week. Meanwhile, his old employer, NBC-Universal, anointed three new on-air hosts yesterday. Will any of them have staying power? Or, like Baldwin before them, will they all be (in the parlance of Dean Wormer) out of there like shit through a goose?

click to enlarge Is that a snake in your boot, or are you just happy Woody Allen isn't your dad?
  • Is that a snake in your boot, or are you just happy Woody Allen isn't your dad?

Is that a snake in your boot, or are you just happy Woody Allen isn't your dad?

First up is Ronan Farrow, estranged son of Woody Allen, who made news last year by encouraging the rampant speculation that he is in fact the offspring of Mia Farrow and Frank Sinatra. On his Ronan Farrow Dail* (1 p.m. weekdays, MSNBC), he instead comes across like the offspring of Frank Sinatra and a marionette of a twink. Farrrow’s idea of a snappy comeback to a guest is “Wow! Tell us how you really feel,” which does not bode well for his future in the television medium. His show purports to dig deeper than the average news-analysis program, but on opening day, everybody he trotted out to discuss the events in the Ukraine (including undead Clintonisto William Cohen) held neatly to the party line “protesters good; in your face, Russia!” And Farrow’s big idea for humanizing America’s student-loan crisis was to haul his own production assistant in front of the cameras and have the poor guy reveal that he won’t be paid off until 2029. (That’s what you get for taking a job at a third-place network, sucker! FOX would have had that balance wiped!)

In an attempt to court young technophiles, Farrow’s show sets up a daily battle between newsmakers – yesterday’s involved who might be showing stronger leadership in the Ukraine, Obama or Putin – then has the viewers vote on it via Twitter. It’s a bold, groundbreaking experiment, although I’m finding that it works better on that other bastion of participatory democracy, Project Runway: Under the Gunn. (Speaking of which, have you heard Gunn’s new theme song? METAL!!!!!!!!)

click to enlarge "Respectfully, you're an assclown."
  • "Respectfully, you're an assclown."

"Respectfully, you're an assclown."

Following right after Farrow at 2 p.m. is The Reid Report with Joy Reid, who last year passed the mighty Eugene Robinson as my favorite MSNBC guest commentator. In a just world, her new show would be on in primetime, but that would violate the network’s apparent programming policy, “Only one black and one woman after sundown.” Reid is whip-smart, lightning-quick and comes from a place of real moral clarity. Unfortunately, she also seems to feel that playing the host requires her to downplay those qualities in the name of decorum -- which means that instead of benefiting from her full wisdom, we mostly get to hear her politely suggest to stammering nincompoops like Kay Bailey Hutchison  that, “respectfully,” they don’t know what in the hell they’re talking about.

The Reid Report’s overture to the new-media generation involves crowdsourcing, with our host imploring her audience of “Reiders” (wait – weren’t they the band in That Thing You Do?) to send her ideas for future stories via whatever social-media platform they prefer. I’d like to think that the results won’t adhere completely and suspiciously to the center-right Third Way ideology that holds sway at MSNBC during the daytime hours, but I’m not holding my breath. My suggestion for the initial exposé: “What is Alec Baldwin doing now?”

click to enlarge "Hey, we can't all be Conan O'Brien. Not even Conan O'Brien."
  • "Hey, we can't all be Conan O'Brien. Not even Conan O'Brien."

"Hey, we can't all be Conan O'Brien. Not even Conan O'Brien."

NBC has a lot riding on Late Night with Seth Meyers. So on opening night, they didn’t take any chances, surrounding the show’s new host with accomplished comedians like Amy Poehler and Joe Biden. And it’s a good thing they did, because Meyers’ opening monologue was the biggest disaster since

well, since the last two times somebody took over the program. Without a desk to hide behind, Meyers had no idea whatsoever what to do with his body, or even his face, and the unfamiliarity of the experience ruined his usually rock-solid delivery. You couldn’t not look away, but when you did, what you heard was still every bit as squirmy. When he was finally allowed to sit down, he seemed a lot more comfortable, although his material still wasn’t up to snuff: One threatening-to-be-recurring bit, “Venn Diagrams,” took an pleasant Internet meme and added a wholely unnecessary voiceover. As a friend once said of The Da Vinci Code, it was about as entertaining as watching somebody else work a Sudoku.

Meyers’ banter with Poehler was more fun for them than us, especially when they were belaboring a throwaway bit “bandleader” Fred Armisen had tossed out earlier. In contrast, Biden came off as an old pro: funny, beguiling, and with expert timing. I’ll let you wrestle with what it means when the most notoriously gaffe-prone veep since Quayle has to show a late-night show how it’s done. When we come up with the answer, we can all tweet it to Farrow.

My predictions: Meyers will hang on in his new job for a few years – at least until Taran Killam starts feeling uppity – and reviewers will cluck about how he’s grown into the gig, simply because the urine stream down his leg is no longer visible in low-def. MSNBC will find a way to ease Reid back into the role of righteous angel of truth -- hopefully with a Maddow-style evening show, although I’m worried they’ll instead trade her to BET. (Her first show closed with an extended ad for that night’s BET Honors.) As for Farrow, he’ll be gone by the end of spring, whereupon his only chance to remain in the public eye will be to have Baldwin call him up and disparage him as a “rude, thoughtless little twink.” Wow! Tell us how you really feel.

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Days without a response from the publication that plagiarized from me and won’t come clean: 252.

Follow me on Twitter: @Schneider_Stv

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