That’s infotainment

Russian revolutionary communist and philosopher Karl Marx said “Religion is opium for the masses.”

If he said that today, it would be rephrased “Television is opium for the masses.”

Americans watch television religiously.

Some people don’t even go to churchon Sunday, but instead watch a televised version of their preferred denomination.

Holy communion, Batman!

Americans get their information from television —- but that likely takes a back seat to entertainment.

Wouldn’t we rather not be informed as much as be entertained? Where’s Rasmussen with a poll on that question?

There’s even a relatively new word for this phenomenon: Infotainment.

Check out your local news shows — the anchors (usually a guy and a gal) frequently crack jokes and try their best to spice up routine stories.

Cue a Don Henley reference —- from his song about the TV media “Dirty Laundry”: “I could’ve been an actor, but I wound up here. I just have to look good, I don’t have to be clear.”

OK, so you’re saying to yourself, but this is Southern California. Hollywoodland. That’s the American Dream, dudes and dudettes.

You are wrong, Walk of Fame breath. It’s the same back East with the local news. It’s safe to say every weatherman across the country is an aspiring stand-up comic who just needs that one shot on “The Tonight Show” — then it’s hello HBO Comedy Special. (I actually worked with a TV weatherman back East whose real ambition was to become a game-show host.)

Maybe that’s why a lot of us get our information from entertainers: Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show,” Rush Limbaugh on the radio, Glenn Beck from another planet.

Sarah Palin, who has proven that she’s a better entertainer than a politician, is joining the ranks as an entertaining commentator on Fox.

Everything Palin has done in the last several months has made news —- of a more entertaining fashion. Her book is more entertaining than informative. Hence the title “Going Rogue.”

But even Palin’s latest newsmaking announcement took a back seat to a more important newsworthy entertainment story:

“Simon quitting ‘Idol’!”

Palin remains the It Girl with the political crowd, but she’s no match for “American Idol” —- even though her devoted Palinestas and Fox see her as one.

Maybe if she could sing like Susan Boyle.

Palin at least knows that Americans would rather be entertained than informed, so don’t ever count her out. And the Fox network does have several shows that snatch high ratings.

Back when Johnny Carson ruled the late night roost, people around the water cooler at work the next day would repeat what Carson talked about in his monologue —- which always included sharp punchlines to the political doings of the time.

That tradition is carried on best by David Letterman, regardless of Stewart always winning the Emmy.

Letterman not only gets his razor-sharp digs in on politicians through his monologues, but he also gets in trouble for it —– Palin again. She and her devotees tried to get Letterman fired for the iffy jokes he made about her daughters.

Naturally, that only made Dave stronger and more sarcastic (and funnier) — throughout Palin’s media book tour coverage, he answered nightly with a nasty but effective segment called “Things more exciting to do than reading the Sarah Palin memoir.”

Palin said she would never go on his show because she didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of getting a ratings boost.

Turns out that her feud with Dave actually did more to boost his ratings than her actually appearing on his show —- because he was able to milk it for all it was worth.

More importantly, it came at the time when Conan O’Brien took over “The Tonight Show.”

Bad timing on his part.

Then Jay Leno took over the 10 p.m. time slot Monday thru Friday. It turned out to be a joke on Leno —- and the slimeball network execs who are overpaid to believe they know what the public wants.

The American people have been programmed to want their “stories” on at 10 p.m. Their CSI: Cleveland, and their NCIS: Sheyboygan, or their Emergency Room Hunks, or their reality TV shows like the Real Housewives do Dallas. Comedy is from 8 to 10 p.m., where there are endless sitcoms starring real actors as Homer Simpson-types.

If anything, Leno could feel right at home with the Not Ready for Prime Time Players from the original “Saturday Night Live” in the 1970s.

Meanwhile, Letterman is having a field day with the late night talk show battle going on at NBC between Leno and Conan.

And it’s in the news. People want to know who’s going to come out on top —- even though a lot of them aren’t even awake at that time. It’s infotainment and we’ve just got to know. It may even be so good that it deserves a tweet.

Who gives a rat’s patootie what Harry Reid said about President Obama —- the more important news is that the State of the Union Address may cancel the season premeire of the last season of “Lost.”

Even before then, the Golden Globes are on this Sunday —- so there better not be some looney tune Middle Eastern terrorist wearing a bomb in his underpants on a plane landing in the Hudson River.

The only thing we care about is if “Avatar” is going to win.

And none of those breaking news updates while Sandra Bullock is winning her best actress award.

Guys forced to watch the foreign press trying to tell us what movies we made are the best will be OK with breaking news interrupting the Red Carpet phoniness —- but only if they have bets on what actresses got the best cleavege working for them.

Who knows, maybe Palin will be on the Red Carpet covering it for Fox.

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One Response to That’s infotainment

  1. paul C in PA says:

    Sorry it took me so long to respond to this one. After almost 30 years in the TV news biz…I can say with complete certainty, TV IS a vast wasteland.

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