McCain’s Early Fairwell

November 3, 2008

McCain’s recent appearance on SNL was the beginning of his path to regaining acceptance by the public and even more importantly — by the media — after the drubbing he is about to take in this election.

The long opening sketch made McCain look good while mercilessly drubbing Sarah Palin (she did an aside to camera promoting “Palin in 2012” t-shirts). McCain came across as the old, media-friendly ham he’s been for years, rather than the desperate to win, Rovesque character assassin he’s been the last months.

McCain will be a lonely man starting on Wednesday.  He’ll be reviled by the dominant, right wing of his party for not being tough enough and leading his party to ruin.  The moderates and liberals, who had once made McCain their favorite Republican, are unlikely to soon forgive him for the very low road he’s taken on the campaign.

By appearing in a skit that attacked the ambitiousness and duplicity of his own running mate, McCain was laying the groundwork for a mea culpa to the moderates and Dems (while further alienating him from the Republican right wing).  He’s making his pitch for relevance in a Democratic-controlled Senate.

My sense is that the Dems will be magnanimous in victory.  The more seriously they take McCain in the Senate, the more they’ll divide the Republican senators, and the Republican circular firing squad will continue through 2012.

What a Waste

October 19, 2008

Sarah Palin’s appearance on SNL did great things for their ratings, but I think it undermines the show. It defangs their satire; it tells us it’s all a harmless joke (a joke that she’s in on).

SNL has been in decline for decades, once it became part of the mainstream and lost its purpose.  The original SNL was the sixties generation and their immediate descendants attacking the staid, the conformist, the faux satire of TV shows like Laugh In.

Laugh In will always burn in hell for making having Nixon do a cameo on the show (“Sock it to me?”).  The cameo made Nixon seem like he had a sense of humor, and gave him degree of coolness for the under-thirty crowd — a way of disarming the youth vote when they were mad at the Democrats for the Vietnam War.

That idiotic line enormously helped Nixon to win a very tight election in 1968 — which, of course, led to the needless deaths of thousands of Americans as the war was extended another four years.

Comedy hurts.

I’m not suggesting that Palin’s appearance will do for her what Laugh In did for Nixon (although giving any legitimacy to an unqualified reactionary is a very bad thing).  But it does tell us a lot about SNL.  They had a run of genuine satire this election; for the first time in a long time, five minutes of every episode was important.

But that was just a lucky accident, and not a new direction.  In a few weeks, SNL will go back to being safely irrelevant, all about celebrity imitation and creative exhaustion.

What a waste.

Laughter Hurts

October 11, 2008

According to an article in Showbizdata, SNL’s Sarah Palin skits, while enormously helping SNL’s ratings, are hurting hers:

Friday, October 10 2008 Digg!

A national study has indicated that the “favorability rating” for Sarah Palin drops when viewers watch Tina Fey impersonating her on Saturday Night Live. Among a group of 314 Democratic, Republican and independent voters, Palin’s favorability rating dropped to 43 percent from 47 percent after they watched Fey’s parody of the vice-presidential candidate. As expected, the rating fell more sharply among Democrats and independents than it did among Republicans, who were virtually unaffected by the SNL skit. The study was conducted by Flemington, NJ-based HCD Research and Allentown, PA-based Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion.

Becoming a laughingstock in the mainstream media is political death.  I’ve always thought Chevy Chase brought down Gerald Ford, and Bush, of course, exists purely as a pinyata for the last few years.  Ultimately, though, these characterizations stick because the public believes their tagging something true about the politician.  Moreover, TV satirists more reflect public opinkion than cause it.  Politicians aren’t really ripped apart by TV comedians until their numbers were already sinking.  As with the evening news, the media exists to reaffirm what we thought, rather than to wander very far outside that box.