Dumb Moments From NBC's "Inside the Obama White House"

Slate's Culture Blog
June 4 2009 11:17 AM

Dumb Moments From NBC's "Inside the Obama White House"

As demonstrated by Vulture , by Vanity Fair , by very fine work in the paper of record , by your vituperative correspondent himself , NBC Entertainment has transformed itself into a marvelous object of derision. (Tune in tonight for the debut of The Listener ! It’s Bringing Out the Dead meets Medium meets general anesthesia!) This week, NBC News, feeling left out of the fun, got in on the act of degrading the airwaves. Congrats to Steve Capus and his team for reminding viewers just how awful television news can be.


It was one thing on Monday, when, on local late-night news shows, NBC affiliates devoted perhaps twice the time to the launch of Conan’s Tonight Show that they did to the end of GM as we know it. But Monday was followed, as according to custom, by Tuesday and Wednesday, when the network ran a two-part special hosted by Brian Williams and titled Inside the Obama White House . Many have compared BHO with JFK, and the precedents for this program do, indeed, date to the "new frontier" A Tour of the White House with Mrs. John F. Kennedy and a hand shandy by Judith C. Exner .

Speaking of Mafia molls , the special’s dumbest moment was the tracking shot showing Obama walking the portico as if he were  taking a date into the Copa 'round the back way . Maybe. There are so many bits of ridiculousness here that it’s tough to pick a favorite. The pulsing dance music scoring a shot of Rahm Emmanuel opening a door? The adrenalized zooming on envelopes labeled "top secret"? The segment pretending to offer an "anatomy of a talking point" that could have been approved by David Axelrod himself?

The president’s opposition couldn’t have been giddier at seeing "the media" so blatantly submerged in "the tank." And his supporters would have been better off spending those two hours reading How to Watch TV News , which ought to be required reading for high-school students, with its clear analysis of a journalismesque business always dancing the "Madison Avenue shuffle." Seriously, NBC could have provided a greater public service by showing Bo play on a PuppyCam.

Troy Patterson is Slate's writer at large and writes the Gentleman Scholar column.


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