Mister Charlie Told Me So
January 23, 2008
The A Daily Show and The Colbert Report have been successful in recent years by mocking, poking, prodding, and lambasting our media. Reasoned, informative news programming promotes healthy debate in the public square and at the dinner table. Privately owned corporate media need to make money so what bleeds, leads. Bill O’Reilly is a bully. All of this analysis is well known and borders on the tautological (warning: incorrectly used). Other media have their bright spot – NPR features soothing voices on radio; the Salad is of course the champion of reason and sensibility on the internet. I believe, however, that there is a notable exception to the woeful state of affairs on the boob tube whose virtues I would like to extol.
Charlie Rose has been interviewing a vast array of personalities on his eponymous show on PBS since 1991. His guests and topics range from sports to politics, from film to economics. He features panels of journalists covering the primaries as well as hour long sit-downs with Noam Chomsky and William F. Buckley, though not at the same time; Tiki Barber talks about the Giants’ season and Brad Pitt talks about Katrina as well as his acting and family life. Throughout, Rose demonstrates erudition. He displays genuine interest in the world his guest inhabits. He attempts to understand the individual on their own terms, leading some critics to feel he is not critical enough and that he fails to challenge his guests.
But is this really a problem? Rose’s guests feel they have come to an open forum without the same time constraints of the sound-byte world and therefore feel comfortable expressing their views as well as all of the attending content. The drawbacks? Rose himself sometimes interrupts his guests and its really annoying. Sometimes the show can be a bit of a snooze if the guest and/or topic is not particularly dynamic – sometimes the program is just stuffy and boring.
There is something to be said, however, for challenging ourselves as a generation to have some Sitzfleish. On the whole, Charlie Rose has been offering a healthy and refreshing alternative to the mass media talk format. The show features its own Youtube profile and is one of the most accessible television programs around. It airs on PBS affiliates throughout the country. Let’s move beyond the talking points and aim to be consumers of substance and not be spoon fed the junk food equivalent of TV.