Thursday, February 4, 2010

Liberals vs. Conservatives--The Daily Show vs. 1/2 Hour News Hour

Conservative executives at Fox need to understand real facets of humor before they can produce another conservative spinoff of “The Daily Show.” This paper will show the subtle differences between Fox’s The ½ Hour News Hour and NBC’s The Daily Show that may help to explain rating points between the different programming.

The ½ Hour News Hour makes frequent stabs at humor and fails to really hit the target. One of the main attributes of the program is it’s blatant political message. For example, two episodes feature skits about Gun laws. The first episode begins with an interview of a complete gun-ban supporter. Throughout the interview, we find out that the interviewee is actually an avid criminal who was “randomly” shot by an old lady being mugged (mugged by the interviewee), a homeowner being robbed (robbed by the interviewee), and a police officer.  In the end, we “get the message” all too easily that gun violence is caused by definite criminals and not by innocent gun owners.

The second episode shows an infomercial skit about a new system of dealing with gun violence without purchasing a gun. Consumers are shown purchasing and putting up signs which read “gun-free zone.” We then see subsequent skits in which a man with a shot gun attempts to rob a convenience store only to realize that the store is a “gun-free zone.” Dejectedly, he withdraws his robbery attempt.  Both of these attempts at humor are so blatant with political messaging that the moderate voter will most likely change the channel after being told what to think.

Jon Stewart, from The Daily Show, carries a liberal political agenda, but his messaging is much more subtle and sophisticated. In one episode he makes Fox News look like the “New Liberals” based on criteria from quotes made by conservative talk show hosts and guests. He shows how conservatives support the passionate town hall protestors discussing the health care reform. He then juxtaposes those statements with earlier statements by Fox’s News anchors: “…Many protestors are simply loons.” Throughout the entire skit, he continues to show cut scenes from fox news programming and juxtaposing those statements with earlier ideas thus showing a complexity in his humor that Fox was not able to achieve.

The style of The ½ Hour News Hour signifies an evening on Saturday Night Live with its over-exaggerated skits rather than a more sophisticated parody on news programming. Furthermore, rather than helping the audience to form a relationship with the mock anchor, we are frequented with skit interviews. NBC’s The Colbert Report helps us really get to know, and like the anchor, Stephen Colbert, with his brilliant improvisation.

Furthermore, The Daily Show doesn’t always force liberal opinions in every episode. Rather, the show frequently attacks multiple ideas. Weinman said, “It’s hard to be an effective comedian while being an advocate for a party, any party.” Underneath the humor, The Daily Show, ultimately, seeks to be funny while adding bits of liberalism. Conversely, the ½ Hour News Hour makes its first priority in pushing a conservative agenda while trying (but failing) to be funny.

Fox was trying to copy NBC’s news parody success by only looking at the service of the shows. Unfortunately, they failed to see the successful and subtle methodologies and connotations embodied in the humor and thus failed to give conservative news to a young, entertainment-seeking audience.

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