Too Much TV: Your TV Talking Points For Tuesday, March 26th, 2024

Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Tuesday, March 26th, 2024:

In the least surprising piece of news today, NBC has decided to cut ties with Ronna McDaniel, the former chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, who was hired last week as an on-air political commentator. The move followed yesterday's revolt at MSNBC, which found anchors from Joe Scarborough to Lawrence O'Donnell devoting portions of their shows to the decision.

Rachel Maddow opened her show with her trademark political deep dive, using a 29-minute commercial-free opening segment to draw links between 1940s-era Nazi sympathizers such as famed radio commentator Father Charles Coughlin and present-day efforts to promote an authoritarian takeover of the government.. She placed McDaniel in the center of those efforts and asked NBC executives to take a moment and examine their decision.

While no one at NBC News is talking about the decision on the record, it was no doubt driven by the idea "hey, we need to have conservative voices on the air. She's the former RNC head, so let's hire her!" And I suspect that more than one executive felt that given NBC already had one former-RNC head on the payroll (Michael Steele), another hire from that organization wouldn't be a problem.

I could spend a lot of space writing about all of the many reasons why those two decisions aren't comparable. Instead, I want to use this as another example of why it's a bad idea for cable news networks to rely so heavily on paid political contributors. McDaniel might have been an extremely bad choice. But that is only when compared to similar, slightly less dumb hires.

Of the three major cable news nets, I'm most likely to watch MSNBC, albeit usually only in the primetime hours. Those programs tend to strike a nice balance between politics and commentary and more than once I've walked away from All In With Chris Hayes or The Rachel Maddow Show and felt as if I've learned something new.

But the airtime of MSNBC as a whole is entirely too devoted to the network's paid contributors. I have no problem relying on the insight of political insiders on some stories. The problem is that those paid contributors become a crutch and end up pushing other voices off the network.

The other day I was watching a segment on the current political state of Michigan, which as always will be a battleground state in November. The guests were a paid GOP strategist, a paid Democratic strategist and a DC-based NBC White House reporter. Now there's nothing inherently wrong with any of those guests. But aside from the fact that both strategists are on MSNBC so often I suspect they might be sleeping on a cot off-camera, it seems like it might have been helpful to have a guest on who...I don't know...maybe lives in Michigan and reports on these issues on a daily basis.

I am personally glad NBC News has dumped McDaniel. But that doesn't solve the other problems they have with paid contributors.

Every stand-up comedian writes and arranges their acts somewhat uniquely. I spent my 20s doing stand-up and my approach was to not write anything down. Instead, I'd have a consistent opening and closing set of jokes. And everything else in the middle was just randomly assembled on the fly, out of an ever-changing collection of maybe 2-3 hours of jokes that were in various levels of completeness.

This was not an optimal approach. Once I started to headline, fellow comics loved to watch me because when my approach worked (say 80% of the time), it almost felt like jazz. The problem for me was that maybe 10-15% of the time it didn't work and my act blew up onstage like I was some kind of comedy club suicide bomber.

Comedians who are successful long term have a much more thoughtful approach to the joke-writing process, and an example of that is featured in the new Peacock documentary Good One: A Show About Jokes, which premiered today on Peacock. The special follows Mike Birbiglia around as he begins work on what he hopes will eventually become his next one-man show. I spoke with producer/director Eddie Schmidt about the documentary, which shows how Birbiglia uses stacks of colored index cards to organize his act:

Q: The process of writing jokes - especially those that are meant to be part of a larger show - can be tough to show to a home audience. So much of what happens is internal and even if you're filming every minute onstage, things happen that aren't apparent to anyone other than the comic. 

So when you sat down to start work on Good One, what was that process like for you? How did you decide, "I think this will bridge that gap for the audience and allow them to understand how this works?"

Eddie Schmidt: I thought a lot about adaptation because Good One is a podcast. And it's a wonderful podcast, obviously. And Jesse David Fox, one of the creators, is one of our producers. But I started to think about it visually. And one of the things that made Mike Birbiglia so perfect for this story and unique is that his methods are tactile. He's using multi-colored notecards, a plethora of notecards. He's journaling. And these things are visual.

So I felt like those elements of his craft translated so well to what we wanted to do, which was to take a conversation and make it an immersive documentary. And so, I think those tactile qualities, those visual touchstones help it land for people. 

One of the reasons why I love living in the Twin Cities is that there is a varied and vital local news scene. RacketMN is owned-and-operated by four journalists who used to work for the late and lamented alt-paper City Pages. While they are living the digital journalism life now, their souls are still a bit rebellious and snarky. As can be seen in this pretty funny write-up of an interview I did for MinnPost, another local digital news outlet:

* Investigation Discovery announced today that the documentary series #QuietOnSet is releasing a fifth hour, this one hosted by Soledad O'Brien. She'll talk to actors and writers featured in the previous episodes, as well as new participants who have come forward after the documentary aired. The new episode will premiere Sunday, April 7th. 

The network also announced that more than 16 million have already watched the documentary series and that it has grabbed the largest audience of an unscripted series since the launch of Max.

* Season two of Bollywed premieres Tuesday, April 9th on Fuse.

* Fox has renewed Hell's Kitchen for a 23rd and 24th season.

* Prime Video has announced a new reality "star" competitive series called THE GOAT. Hosted by Daniel Tosh, participants include Tayshia Adams (The Bachelor franchise), Joe Amabile (The Bachelor franchise, Dancing with the Stars), Kristen Doute (Vanderpump Rules), Reza Farahan (Shahs of Sunset), CJ Franco (FBoy Island), Wendell Holland (Survivor), Teck Holmes (The Real World, The Challenge), Justin Johnson/Alyssa Edwards (RuPaul’s Drag Race), Paola Mayfield (90 Day Fiancé), Da’Vonne Rogers (Big Brother, The Challenge), Joey Sasso (The Circle, Perfect Match), Jason Smith (Holiday Baking Championship), Lauren Speed-Hamilton (Love Is Blind), and Jill Zarin (The Real Housewives of New York City). It premieres May 9th.


* Constellation Season One Finale (Apple TV+)
* Dave Attell: Hot Cross Buns (Netflix)
* Good One: A Show About Jokes (Peacock)
* Just In Time (Great American Family) - [photo gallery]
* The Truth Vs. Alex Jones (HBO)
* Tig Notaro: Hello Again (Prime Video)

* Dead Hot (Tubi)
* grown-ish (Freeform)
* No Pressure (Netflix)
* Rest In Peace (Netflix)
* Testament: The Story Of Moses (Netflix)
* The Believers Series Premiere (Netflix)
* Time Season Two Premiere (Britbox)