Ken Tucker's TV Prime-Time TV commentary

Tag: The President (1-10 of 19)

State of the Union TV coverage: High emotions and charged rhetoric

In his last State of the Union address before he faces a re-election challenge, President Obama on Tuesday night called upon Congress to “lower the temperature in this town” and “work together.” But the television high point of the evening occurred just before the speech, as the President, in making his way to the podium, paused to hug Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who is resigning this week to recover from her brain injury. A chant of “Gabby, Gabby, Gabby” could be heard throughout the House floor, as Giffords was given a standing ovation. READ FULL STORY

Republican-o-rama: A debate, a wronged wife, a Perry pull-out, a Santorum sally, a Newt of a night

Rick Perry drops out! Newt Gingrich’s ex-wife says he wanted an “open marriage,” with the woman who became his current wife! Herman Cain is climbing aboard the Colbertrain! The Obama campaign released a new ad (see below)! It turns out Rick Santorum scored a victory over Mitt Romney in Iowa! And CNN held a John Kingly debate followed by Anderson Cooperly analysis! On Thursday, things were busier in politics, and in the media covering politics, than Steven Tyler in a roomful of teenage American Idolettes. READ FULL STORY

'The View': Donald Trump has 'created more jobs' than Obama; Couric talks career change

On Tuesday morning’s The View, Elisabeth Hasselbeck tried to change the conversation about Donald Trump’s ongoing birther obsession with President Obama by asserting that Trump would make a good candidate for President because he’s “created more jobs” than Obama. READ FULL STORY

President Obama signs health-care bill: 'a big f***ing deal,' says Vice President Biden on TV

It was fascinating to watch and listen to President Obama’s speech as he signed the health care bill this morning. Giddy relief was in (and on) the air, as when the President said that it was “a testament to the historic leadership and uncommon courage of the men and women of the United States Congress, who have taken their lumps during this difficult debate,” and an unknown voice yelled out, “Yes, we did!” Rueful laughter erupted.

But what’s getting much of the immediate media coverage? Well, Vice President Biden seems to have READ FULL STORY

'Saturday Night Live' recap: Zach Galifianakis hosts a weird, terrific show. And he shaved his beard off.

After a dismal cold-open about President Obama’s health-care reform during which the studio audience was quietly bored, as though it was attending an actual Obama health-care summit, Saturday Night Live perked up considerably with host Zach Galifianakis and his piano musings during the opening monologue, including: “I’ve been in Canada, opening for Miles Davis,” said Galifianakis, then corrected himself: “Kilometers Davis.”

The first sketch seemed scheduled to drive away all but the hardiest viewers early in the evening. It was READ FULL STORY

'The Office': Birth of a baby, and a better health-care insurance-reform argument than Obama's?

As The Office proved with Pam and Jim’s wedding, the series knows how to make life-changing shifts for its characters work as both comedy and this self-conscious show’s version of sincerity. Last night managed to combine a thoroughly believable and funny central idea — that Pam would try to delay going to the hospital to get some extra time, gaming the office’s “stupid HMO” — with READ FULL STORY

'Bill Maher': Pro-killer whale, anti-Obama health summit

Bill Maher’s trenchant comment about about the whale trainer killed at SeaWorld this week? “If people f— with animals that should be in the wild, I’m sorry when they die, but ya get what ya get.”

To which panel guest Olivia Wilde added, “If only dolphins could kill people!”

Guest Adam Carolla chimed in: “Any time someone tries to ride you, if you knock them off, you should be able to kill them; I don’t care if it’s a niece or a nephew.” Full admission: I laughed at Carolla’s line.

Less blood-thirsty was surprise guest Chris Rock, who dropped by, he said, because he was taping Wanda Sykes’ talk show nearby. It was a nice, comradely gesture, but Rock had little to add to the discussion of health care. Why should he have? He just popped in, not knowing what the subject was, just to make people happy to see a really funny guy for a few moments.

As for health care, Maher called this week’s health-care summit “total bulls—” and said that “if the Democrats can’t push [President Obama’s plan] through, they’re NBC — they’re a joke.”

Mocking Obama’s opening remarks in which the President told personal anecdotes about family members with illnesses, Maher joked that “John McCain told how he once carried a brain-dead woman through an entire campaign.”

There was a lot of genial yelling during a guest panel, most of it Maher’s, and then a lot of lousy “New Rules” jokes. In short, a typical Real Time with Bill Maher: Lots of noise, with a few funny moments.

Obama's health care summit: A little bit 'Oprah,' a little bit 'Jon Stewart'

President Barack Obama proved to be quite an astute media critic during the morning session of the so-called “health care summit” being broadcast on most cable news channels.

Various Republicans such as Arizona Senator Jon Kyl and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee lobbed arguments about the President’s health-care bill such as “that sort of thinking works well in the classroom… but not in the real world” and that the GOP wants to scrap the bill and “go over this a piece at a time.” In response, the President noted that if the conversation devolved into simply stating disagreements, “We’ll [just] be on Fox News and MSNBC on the split-screen arguing about how things should be done”… and damned if that wasn’t exactly what MSNBC (but not Fox) was doing at the precise moment Obama was speaking, splitting the screen with their own talking-heads analyzing the debate.

The President started out the morning in Oprah show mode, telling anecdotes about his family and saying he wanted to “focus on where we actually agree” — in short, being the appeaser, not the commander. At other times, he sounded as though he knew what media outlets such as The Daily Show might zero in on: grand-standing and lip-flapping on both sides.

When House Minority Whip Eric Cantor stacked the 2,000-plus-page health care proposal in front of himself before launching into his objections, the President observed, “When you do props like this — you stack [the bill] up there… and start talking about its 2,400 pages, that prevents us from having an actual conversation.”

When John McCain said he wanted the months-long debate on health care issues to “go back to the beginning” and about how the “American people don’t want” reform, Obama said bluntly, “We’re not campaigning anymore. The election’s over.” McCain said, smiling, “I’m reminded of that every day.”

UPDATE: Well, it’s mid-afternoon. MSNBC has switched to the Olympics. CNN is regularly cutting into the government discussion with Wolf Blitzer interviewing the usual cast of characters at its endless desk of “experts.” C-SPAN has shoved off the rest of its coverage to C-SPAN3. Does this make the televised health care debate a failure? Yes and no.

Yes, because as Fox News’ Shepard Smith said a few moments ago, “The Democrats are sticking to their same talking points, and the Republicans are sticking to their same talking points.”

No, it’s not a failure because if even a small percentage of us have been able to spare a little time to watch our representatives debate this subject, we can see just how bitter the disagreements are, how Obama’s increasingly pointless attempts at finding common ground are met with the Republicans’ increasingly pointless calls to (to quote just one variation on the same mantra, this one from Congressman Paul Ryan) “start over, work on a clean sheet of paper.”

The next stage of this, as far as the media goes, will be the evening newscasts, which if they do their jobs well, will be expanding their hard-news coverage to parse what was said, to interview health-care experts; to fact-check the figures and assertions that the President and the Republicans have asserted to support their causes.

I’ll watch them this evening, but, call me cynical, here’s what I think will really occur: One of the most popular lead sound-bites will be Obama telling McCain that “we’re not campaigning any more,” and after perhaps ten minutes, ABC, CBS, and NBC will turn to covering the snow storm on the East Coast. In many ways, we are even less well-served by our TV news media than we are by our elected officials.

'Saturday Night Live' recap: If Betty White had hosted last night

Bowing to a grassroots movement to get the funniest senior citizen in show business front-and-center, SNL had Betty White host one of its best entries of the season last night. There was a peculiar cold-open in which Kenan Thompson played a live-action version of Cleveland from The Cleveland Show starring in a parody of The Blind Side. But Betty White started saving the show almost immediately. In her opening monologue, she claimed to be the “457th woman Tiger Woods slept with,” and offered a withering critique of his stiff apology from earlier this week.

There was the inevitable Golden Girls parody, with Abby Elliott playing Blanche and Jason Sudeikis looking fine as Bea Arthur’s Dorothy:

White showed just how spry she still is in an Olympics sketch, impersonating a skiing Lindsey Vonn. (Extra credit to Bill Hader for doing a fine version of a snowboarding, high-on-life Shaun White.)

Next up was a deft take-off on the recurring role White used to have on Boston Legal, with Darrell Hammond making an SNL cameo in James Spader’s role:

And in the fine tradition of SNL game-show parodies, there was READ FULL STORY

Barbara Walters and her '10 Most Fascinating People' bored the pants off us

Was there a greater waste of time last night than Barbara Walters’ 10 Most Fascinating People of 2009? I had to watch because it’s my job, but jeez, what a superficial set of interviews. To cram 10-plus personalities in an hour (one entry, Michael Jackson’s children, technically increased the “fascinating” number), Walters gave us the shortest, least-informative interviews possible. No interviews with either Brett Favre or the Jackson offspring, in fact.

As for the rest, well, Lady Gaga said when asked about it, “I’ve certainly had sexual relationships with women, yes.” She also set herself up for future problems by doing one thing a celebrity should never do, especially now right after the Tiger Woods scandal: she said she wants to be a role model. “I aspire to be a teacher to my young fans… I want to free them from their own fears.”

Oh, just go back to wearing weird costumes and being “enigmatically” silent when not singing, please, Gaga?

With Sarah Palin, Walters recycled most of the quotes that aired in previous Walters “exclusives.” Walters addressed her as “governor” and called her a “special-needs poster mom.” Will Barbara please stop trying to force the role-model thing on people?

Tyler Perry said he was glad he was able to provide his mother with a house and a maid, two things she’s always wanted. Perry, who came closer than Glenn Back to actually crying in the time-honored Walters tradition, came across as a nice guy.

In a quote publicized days before this aired last night, Kate Gosselin said her kids “miss the camera crew.” Walters did not interview the camera crew to see if it missed Kate Gosselin.

Adam Lambert said, “I am a homosexual. Deal with it.”

First Lady Michelle Obama said she works out to achieve what Barbara kept calling “those arms.”

Glenn Beck said, “We’re not having real debates” in this country, and that he wanted his kids to know that “your father stood up for what he believed, and if that makes you enemy number-one, then we’re lost in America.”


In fact, to this entire hour, I give a big…


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