What just concluded was an incredible weekend of news television. Like many of you, I was transfixed to US news services watching the coverage of the protests/riots that took place in several US cities. Most of my time was spent flicking between MSNBC and CNN.
It definitely felt to me while watching it that MSNBC was on point far more often in reading the tone of the news event with commentary that spoke from the perspective of the protesters on the ground. When history looks back at this incident, it’ll be with a similar language as we heard on MSNBC.
CNN, however, was frequently the network to watch.
On Friday night (local Sydney time) I watched CNN reporter Omar Jimenez arrested live on TV. It was an incredible moment of television. But it’s what happened next that kept me glued to the television: the camera continued broadcasting. I watched breathlessly for the next hour as the camera continued to transmit - nobody quite knowing who was in control of the camera. Finally, the police released Jimenez who continued broadcasting from that very video feed as it continued on.
Reporters should never be the focus of the story, but when the police were seemingly quashing the rights of the fourth estate from broadcasting the events from on the ground, it really spoke to the terror of the situation as it was unfolding.
Then on Saturday afternoon I watched the CNN building in Atlanta attacked by rioters with the front windows smashed in and flares thrown into the building at police officers. It was TV you couldn’t turn away from.
Less compelling was, as you might expect, Fox News which seemed to struggle between keeping the messaging of the President / the White House and broadcasting the energy surrounding what was happening on the ground. The Fox News coverage was conservative, authoritarian, and completely toothless.
Part of the hypocrisy of the entertainment industry is that while the industry tends to skew far more heavily towards left and progressive ideology, industry professionals can also be incredibly well-paid which makes people very comfortable.
So, when events like the weekend’s demonstrations happen there is an incredibly large disconnect. It was fascinating to see CNN host Don Lemon calling out Hollywood on this. During coverage of the protests and looting in Los Angeles, Lemon remarked:
"Why aren't they helping these young people? These young people are out there standing on a platform at the edge of an abyss by themselves."
"Yes, I'm calling you out, and you can be mad at me all you want. And what they're doing, you're sitting there and watching TV and you're b***tching abut it... Get on television or do something and help these young people instead of sitting in your mansions and doing nothing. And have some moral courage and stop worrying about your reputation and your brand. "
Read more: The Hollywood Reporter
One celebrity who was out amid the demonstrations: John Cusack. This is video of him being confronted by police. He claims to have later copped some pepper spray too.
In the spirit of companies who want to attach their brand to a popular issue, almost every major media company tweeted out support from corporate accounts.
On one hand you can look at this cynically, but also it’s important for corporations and any body of power and influence to speak out (even if motives are somewhat dubious).
A few of the notable supportive tweets:
Shifting gears to regular TV news coverage…
When Ringo Starr moved on from voicing the narration on Thomas The Tank Engine in 1991 actor Michael Angelis took over the role and became the voice of the series for almost the next 20 years. He has died at age 68.
Read more: Radio Times
The Good Fight star Cush Jumbo is leaving the show. Jumbo was supposedly set to be finished with the show at the end of its current fourth season, but COVID-19 stopped production of the show, preventing the end of her arc to be filmed. It is hoped that she may be able to return for episodes in the fifth season to give her character closure.
Her character, Lucca Quinn, was a fan favourite and occupied an interesting role on the show. With Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart ostensibly the star of the show, it always felt like the show was constantly reaching to make Quinn feel essential - even though most of her storylines had her detached from the main cast and story propulsion.
This video shows the US TV ratings on a graph as it adapts and moves between 1951-2019. The two fun things worth noting:
- Watch as I Love Lucy reaches the end of its run. After years on top you see it start to drop back as TV tastes change and the top ten is almost completely swamped by TV westerns.
- Look for a similar trend just after 2000 as Survivor launches and becomes an immediate TV powerhouse and you can see the list change dramatically to reflect big event reality formats.