The “ire” in “satire”

Pub date March 7, 2007
WriterAaron Sankin
SectionArts & CultureSectionTrash

TELEVISION Nowhere is it written that conservatives can’t be funny. Conservatives can, in fact, be absolutely rip-roaringly funny. Take South Park, which is conservative in its own smug libertarian way, or anything ever done by Christopher Buckley or Mike Judge (whose last film, Idiocracy, is as conservative as it is bitingly hilarious). So when Fox News trotted out The Half Hour News Hour, its version of Comedy Central’s liberal vanguard The Daily Show, there was no guarantee that it was going to be terrible. But it was. So terrible that there has been speculation among right-wing bloggers that the show is an evil Democratic plot to prove Republicans can’t do comedy. They may have a point. This show has a score of 14, the lowest score a show has received in the site’s history. It has less than half the score of Pepper Dennis. Yes, it’s that bad.

Produced by Joel Surnow and Manny Coto — who also created 24, America’s favorite source of torture porn — The Half Hour News Hour debuted Feb. 18. The opening skit, set in January 2009, featured newly elected President Rush Limbaugh and Vice President Ann Coulter. Limbaugh gloated that "the grown-ups are finally back in charge" and that he was glad "Howard Dean has finally gotten the medical attention he so clearly needed." This statement was odd, considering Limbaugh’s recent prescription drug problems; it could have been funny if it contained even a single iota of self-awareness. The scene only made sense in the show’s context of the Republicans being out of power for years — meaning that their simply being in a position of authority is a joke in itself. Since two branches of government are firmly in Republican control and the other only changed hands a couple months ago, this reveals more about the forever embittered, always-the-underdog Republican psyche than it does anything reutf8g to humor.

The rest of the show involved jokes that were both stupidly obvious and hardly topical, such as making fun of Ed Begley Jr.’s electric car (1987 called — it wants its joke back) and the ACLU defending hate groups (1957 called — ditto). Even worse, The Half Hour News Hour never mentioned George W. Bush. It’s understandable that Fox doesn’t want to go after its own, but for a show that’s supposed to be topical, that’s unforgivable. Maybe Fox should stop trying to be funny and go back to being unintentionally hilarious, like it is with the rest of its programming. (Aaron Sankin)