The [Thursday] Papers
Take the panel on the latest revelations in the government's case against Rod Blagojevich - please!
Do we really need to see lawyers Mike Monico, Dean Polales and Ron Safer wheeled out again? And I generally find Polales and Safer insightful, but geez!
It was deja vu all over again as we were treated for the umpteenth time to a discussion about what a proffer is, how the document contains allegations yet unproven, what constitutes a conspiracy, what the defense may argue. I'm sorry, but I've seen this show - about every three months. How about discussing what's actually in the proffer?
The substance of a few new details weren't completely ignored, but they certainly weren't plumbed.
I've come to grow tired of the same-old, same-old on Chicago Tonight (and its sister program, Week in Review). I find myself tuning in out of duty, hoping to get lucky, or only if a topic noted in the show's daily e-mail alerts interests me. It doesn't have to be that way. Even a public affairs show can be compelling enough on a nightly basis to draw viewers regardless of topic and announced guests.
For example, here are few alternate approaches the show could have taken last night:
* Specifically outline the new revelations in the proffer. You may not need a panel for this and it's certainly better than having one panelist tell us there are a lot of new details and another tell us there's not much new. Just show us!
* Outline one particular scheme. The way the feds lay out Blagojevich's alleged scheme to barter Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat is dizzying. That alone could have been explicated.
* No more lawyers on the set. And refresh the guest list, my god.
* Instead of saying something like "I know we're just getting started but we're out of time" or "I wish we had more time," create more time! Almost every panel seems rushed. I know it's TV, but if you think you have the kind of viewers who want to see a 10-minute discussion of Public Affair Topic A, they are probably the kind of viewers who would love to see 15, 20, or 30 minutes even more. Know who you are - and who your audience is.
* Stop trying to be a variety show. I'm a passionate music fan, but I don't turn to Chicago Tonight for performance.
Chicago Tonight still seems stuck between the 30-minute panel show it used to be and the nightly feature show it is trying to be - with those 30 minutes jammed into 12 at the top of every show with quick dispatch in order to get to . . . what?
Either be a (better) panel show or ditch the panel and be a local Chicago news report. Right now, the show seems to be trying to do too much - and as a consequence, does too little.
What I got out of the show:
Defense attorney Michael Monico thinks the government's evidence is "very vague and oblique" and that "every governor of every state has looked and sought to reward contributors."
Of course, Monico was Chris Kelly's attorney. Why bother booking him?
Former federal prosecutor Ron Safer thinks the government's case is "a slaughter."
I tend to agree with Safer. See why in The Blago Proffer.
And then there was Elizabeth Brackett's interview of David Remnick, the New Yorker editor on a book tour promoting his newly released Barack Obama tome, The Bridge. My instinct tells me Brackett didn't have a lot of time to prepare, though I have no facts to back that up. But what a wasted opportunity.
We already know that Obama grew up in Indonesia; we know he was the president of the Harvard Law Review; we know how he met Michelle. Why waste time rehashing the same old biographical reference points?
("We're running out of time already," Brackett said at one point. Sigh.)
The only substantive issue Brackett touched on was the role of race in the presidential campaign - along the lines of, was race a central issue? "How could it not be?" Remnick replied.
If Brackett wanted to focus on race, I would have been interested to know what Remnick learned about the back-and-forth allegations thrown between the Obama and Clinton campaigns about playing the race card. Did Obama really believe Bill Clinton was racist? Did the Obama campaign seed the racial charges against the Clintons? How could Obama appoint Hillary Clinton his Secretary of State if he thought she ran a racist campaign?
But the focus of the interview really should have been what Remnick learned about Obama's time in Chicago - specifically, his place in the political firmament. Maybe even how his record as a Chicago politician presaged his approach as president.
Instead, we got "Bottom line: Is Barack Obama the bridge? Is he the end of the bridge?"
That's what you want to ask?!
At the very least, how about "What did you learn in your reporting for this book that surprised you the most? What are the biggest revelations you found?"
Or, if Brackett had been reading Garry Wills and/or the Beachwood, "Is Barack Obama a phony?"
After all, Remnick seems to be saying just that.
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Posted on April 15, 2010
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