As this is neither a political nor a media-criticism column, we get to focus on a neat little corner of the debate: Who the hell is Charlie Gibson trying to fool? Brian Williams, too. Pretending the networks asked the tough questions? C'mon.
In the wake of the teacup tempest, Gibson, Brian Williams and Katie Couric went on a romp through the various network morning shows saying things like, "There was a lot of skepticism" and "it's not our job to debate [administration officials]."
Only Couric expressed regret, telling The Early Show she considered it "one of the most embarrassing chapters in American journalism."
True enough, Katie. The insinuation in her language there, though, was that Couric believes herself to be part of the fraternity called "American journalism." That's where she and I disagree.
National news isn't journalism, it's entertainment. In the wake of McClellan, that only became more obvious. On May 28, ABC/CNN/MSNBC reporter Jessica Yellin told Anderson Cooper, "the press corps was under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this was a war that was presented in a way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation and the president's high approval ratings.
"My own experience at the White House," she continued, "was that, the higher the president's approval ratings, the more pressure I had from news executives."
The question here is where to direct your anger. At executives? At reporters? How about nobody? This is hard for me -- I looove pointing fingers -- but TV hasn't done anything wrong.
If America wanted real news -- if we wanted our leaders held accountable and to be challenged -- we'd seek out that kind of programming. If it didn't exist and we wanted it loudly enough, networks would give it to us. The vast majority of network TV watchers, though -- and thus a broad swath of America -- wants nothing of the sort.
America doesn't like to be challenged. And no one stepped up to say otherwise.
Challenging reporting has gone the way of challenging programming. The fault is not in our (network TV) stars, but in ourselves.
Documentarian Morgan Spurlock takes his blockbuster idea from Super Size Me (examining obesity in America by eating at McDonald's for 30 straight days) and spins it out in any number of directions. The third season premiere involved spending a month in West Virginia's coal mines. (FX, Tuesdays, 10 pm)
Ice Road Truckers
Foul-mouthed truckers. Murderous ice roads. It's Deadliest Catch with more ego (if such a thing's possible) and I love it. (History Channel, Sundays, 9 pm)
The Bill Engvall Show
Have you seen the TBS promos for the new season? They're hard to miss, especially if you're watching Family Guy. Lately, at least once an episode, Bill (balding, hickish, unfunny) strides into the lower half of the screen with a remote, then pauses the episode and goes into a spiel about the new season. Advertising is always intrusive; this is purposefully so. Before this, I didn't want to watch the show. Now I'm contemplating leading a nationwide boycott. (TBS, premieres June 12)
It doesn't have the Magic vs. Bird matchup of the 1980s, but this year's Celtics-Lakers NBA final series still promises to be entertaining. (ABC, Game 1 tonight at 6 pm)