Wednesday, October 19, 2005

"Colbert Report" = Just as Bad as O'Reilly's Show

Yesterday saw the launch of Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report", Stephen Colbert's take on the cable talk world. While I fell asleep before its debut last night, was able to watch the first two episodes today of the series today.

Given the rush of pre-show publicity, what a disappointment this "Report" is.

Background, for those who know nothing about the show: It - as the Washington Post wrote last week -- draws "from the "dazzling hubris" of Bill O'Reilly, along with Sean Hannity and Joe Scarborough, plus "the folksiness of Aaron Brown, the way he mulls the news and loves to chew the words. And the sexiness of Anderson Cooper. Certainly they sell him as attractive." Watching O'Reilly and company inundate viewers with opinions, [Colbert] says, is like witnessing a spectacle "as natural as a gorilla beating his chest.""

The question for me has always been whether the viewers of "The Daily Show," seen as an intelligent lot, would watch a satire of those shows they themselves, by and large, cannot stand? (What's next, Samantha Bee takes on something Oprah-esque?)

The interview O'Reilly did with Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show" tonight really helped to crystallize for me why this show doesn't seem to do it for me. O'Reilly is a showman able to prance around from subject to subject -- able to even adapt to a show where the studio audience mercilessly boos him -- while Colbert is a better with interplay and not as steady with a distinct voice. He looks uncomfortable in his own skin here.

There was one extremely funny moment in the first episode (which is now available online here), in which Stone Phillips and Colbert face off in who can give a news story the most gravitas.

But while it's still early for the show, the farce-focus can only take it so far. While this may be better than the now-cancelled (but similarly focused) "Hardballs," Colbert is a wonderful correspondent, but he's no host-- get him back to "The Daily Show" pronto. It's telling that the funniest lines that Colbert had tonight was in his interactions with Stewart, in the "toss" between the two shows. "It's French, b*tch!"

Related TV note: I've given up on this season of "The Amazing Race." Terrible what they've done to this franchise.

Well, at least there's a new episode of "Lost" on tomorrow night.


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Jen said...

It's Stephen Colbert's version of creating that elusive alter-ego. It's Comedy Central's attempt to bring the vitality of Craig Kilbourne back.

The Colbert Report would be better if it were less cocky.

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Liz Campbell said...

I have to agree. A parody of what is already so ludricrous as O'Reilley, Scarborough, et al. just does not work. Moreover, Colbert, unlike Stewart, is trying to carry, or should I drag, the show all by himself. Stewart, smart as he is, allows others to take the stage while he is playing the incredulous straightman. That works, it provides the depth and breadth that Colbert does not have. As Jen said, it would be better if it were less cocky. I would add that it would be better, if it were less focused on Colbert's superstar persona. To show how truly distructive to the public sphere, O'Reilley et al's "dazzling hubris" is, it needs to be revealed not by means other than copying it.