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Monday, July 11, 2005

MSNBC's Sinking Ship: The SS Tucker Carlson.

MSNBC is anchoring its summer late-night line-up with Tucker Carlson. We last saw this bow-tied partisan hack being slapped around by Jon Stewart on Crossfire--canceled soon thereafter. Though Carlson attempts to be more intellectual than Sean Hannity and the rest of the far right attack hounds, he is merely more smug. The set on "The Situation with Tucker Carlson" is nearly identical (yet better lit) than HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher. Tucker sits around with three panelists discussing the issues of the day, but unlike Maher he completely lacks any comedic timing. Indeed, all of Carlson's attempts at humor fall flat--they are either mean-spirited jabs or throw-away lines he clearly walked in the room with. Further, unlike Fox News' shows, Carlson suffers from the need to be taken seriously. O'Reilly and Hannity are very comfortable in their own roles--perhaps they're acting, perhaps they lie, but at least seem to have little desire to continue receiving invites to Washington cocktail parties.

MSNBC just seems to keep getting its target audience wrong. With the exception of Chris Matthews (and the sublime--but terribly misused--Keith Olbermann) the seems to be confused about the direction it wishes to go in. CNN is tackling more hard news stories, CNBC--since dropping John McEnroe and pinning its talk-show hopes on the caffine-junkie Jim Cramer--is accepting its place as a finance channel, and Fox News has perfected hard right-infotainment. MSNBC, however, has light fluff news stories and commentators such as Carlson who are light on both entertainment and intellectual brain-power.