Before watching the Fox News Channel’s new series, “The Half-Hour News Hour,” I wondered if my liberal-leaning mind would actually appreciate the show. I soon learned that party affiliations have little to do with this – if you have good taste and (presumably) intelligence, you probably won’t want to waste your time.
The “The Half-Hour News Hour” is Roger Ailes’ answer to Comedy Central’s successful “Daily Show” and “Colbert Report.” However, the new series – which wants desperately to be both funny and a satire, and fails in both aspects – lacks the intelligence and, you know, humor that have made Comedy Central’s series required viewing for college students and many other Americans. If you idolize Ann Coulter (please don’t), can look past hypocrisy and love played-out jokes, you just might find the anchors of the show (Kurt Long and Jennifer Robertson) to be the long-awaited Jon Stewart and Samantha Bee of the right-wing set.
The problem here is not that the conservatives have their own humorous show. That’s fine. The issue with this show – illustrated by the fact that I was literally counting down the minutes until I would be free – is that it is not funny. I know conservatives who, after having seen clips that the network evidently thought would be enticing, cringed. In making this series so stupid, predictable and almost stunningly unfunny, the Fox News Channel has essentially worsened the extreme right-wing stereotype that it usually embraces.
The series can be defined as a tasteless and lame string of jokes. Any gags that could be deemed slightly funny go on so long that actual Fox News Channel programming – think “Hannity and Colmes” – seems like sweet relief. Some long-running jokes on the series’ pilot include a few minutes of “liberal/dangerous” children’s book titles (“Garfield Goes to the Free Clinic,” “Harry Potter and the Alternative Lifestyle”), fake ACLU ads and “BO: Barack Obama Magazine.”
Indeed, Obama is a frequent target. A fake article in the magazine is titled “Did I Mention I Went to Harvard?” and, in the news segments that beg to be compared to the Weekend Updates of less-inspired seasons of “Saturday Night Live,” Long and Robertson proudly report that Obama recently admitted that he did cocaine as a teenager. It’s too bad they forgot to acknowledge George W. Bush’s pride in his C average from Yale, or his own dabbling in illegal drugs. I’m sure that information was just left on the cutting room floor, though.
They also managed to squeeze in tired jokes about the environment, most notably about actor/activist Ed Begley, Jr. This joke goes on for hours, and isn’t funny to begin with. By the time it ends with a bit that has Begley about to be sexually assaulted in prison, is it any wonder that I would prefer death to the (oh sweet God) second episode?
In the end, I was disappointed, but not because I disagree with the viewpoints expressed in the series. The aspect of “The Daily Show” that some Republicans seem to overlook is the fact that it skewers both sides of the political spectrum – if you saw any episodes during the 2004 election season, you would see that Democrats were frequent targets. They tackle the media and all politicians, regardless of party affiliation.
“The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” (which spoofs Bill O’Reilly) have intelligence, humor and heart on their side – and interviews that actually bring new ideas and thoughtful political conversation to viewers who otherwise get their news by briefly scanning a few headlines once a week.
Despite what its critics might think, “The Daily Show” is actually a legitimate news show. (Which is frightening, but at least we’re getting our news in some way.) “The Colbert Report” is an intelligent satire of the Fox News Channel. In trying to make its own version of “Colbert Report” and “Daily Show,” Fox News Channel seems unaware of how to create a satire that isn’t marred by lame jokes, horrible writing and an insensitivity that isn’t at all funny and just reinforces my worst opinions of some Republicans.
The channel has just ordered two episodes of the show in a trial run; they must have known beforehand just how unfunny it was. But in airing “The Half-Hour News Hour” even twice, they are just doing more damage to the fragile political relationships in this country. Way to go, guys.