Saturday, January 28, 2012

Best Political Show on TV

I'm not a fan of MSNBC. I find Rachel Maddow overbearingly partisan and maddeningly repetitive. Ed Schultz is a holdover from the Air America Radio scheme of putting forth liberal windbags as obnoxious as their conservative counterparts. Lawrence O'Donnell is more thoughtful and understated, and has deep political experience, but, like his colleagues, his tone is often condescending. These hosts all assume themselves to be broadcasting to idiots, and talk down incessantly (which is why, I suppose, Maddow finds it necessary to repeat each point twelve times).

But.....there's one dynamite MSNBC show you shouldn't miss. Up with Chris Hayes, buried very early on weekend mornings (Saturdays 7-9 a.m. and Sundays 8–10 a.m., Eastern), is highly intelligent. So intelligent, in fact, that I need to pay close attention to keep up. The show is devoted to analysis rather than persuasion or process, and features the sort of discussion insiders have with one other when the public's not present (as demonstrated by Marc Maron's WTF Podcast, great things happen when interviewees assume few people are listening).

Which means everyone doesn't always take the side you'd expect. Last week, Eliot Spitzer offered an interesting and insightful defense(!!) of the Citizens United decision (start the video - after the quick toothpaste commercial - at 3'40" - and, yeah, Melissa Harris-Perry is pretty old-school noisy/indignant, but she's not always on).

As you'd expect on MSNBC, there is a mildly (and sometimes more than mildly) lefty bias, but a conservative is usually present, serving a beefier role than mere straw man. There's little spin - the show's way too smart to rehash the usual tired dogma and catchphrases - just smart talk and analysis. What a relief to hear politics discussed without self-conscious use of the platform to further an agenda.

Good journalism serves its audience, rather than journalists and their bosses. And it doesn't talk down; it challenges you to keep up, and to question your assumptions. "Up" is still young, but, so far, it's very good journalism.

(I wonder where they get the muffins no one on the panel's ever eating; they look great.)

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