Monday, August 17, 2020

TV Picks - Week of August 17

Politics has never been my thing. 

I double majored at the University of Michigan (Go Blue!) in communications and history, but that's only because I took so many classes about old societies and how America was born. Political science - no thanks. Government history - sign me up!

I care A LOT about this country, but the disingenuousness of politics really turns me off. Politics is all for show - and it shouldn't be. It's embarrassing. It's all about style over substance which is truly a shame. Hamilton is an entertaining Broadway show, but trust me, it didn't play out that way in real life.

I'm not going to tell you who should be in office and why you should vote. There are plenty of annoying Facebook posts from your friends and family already checking that box.

My job is to talk TV, something I actually know a thing or two about. The new programs this week leave much to be desired, so I'm focusing on the Democratic National Convention (next week, the Republicans take their turn).

All political conventions are a farce when it comes to television coverage. It's all about hype. There's no "real news." We know who's running, and unless you want to see electors from the great state of "fill-in-the-blank" declare their love for a particular candidate, it's dreadfully boring. 

There are no real debates. There's no policy being broken down. The real stories are typically outside of the convention hall with passionate protestors bringing real issues to the forefront. 

COVID switches things up for sure. No big crowds. No balloon drops. No pre-planned moments that are anything but spontaneous. Just lot of remote speeches from around the country and way too much analysis from talking heads.     

I won't be watching CNN, FOX News, MSNBC or any of the other news channels. If I'm forced to check out these conventions, I'll need plenty of laughs and entertainment. Thankfully, some of the other channels will provide plenty of both.



Jon Stewart pulled off the neat trick of making these gatherings interesting even if you're not a political junkie. Sure he was there to mock the attendees and the process, but that was accompanied by a quest for knowledge and a desire to inform.

Trevor Noah has done an excellent job reframing a show that has already been reframed (i.e. Kilborn to Stewart). The Daily Show is expanding to five nights to cover both conventions as thoroughly as possible. This is their Super Bowl. 

Politicians recognize the value of coming off well on shows like these and its access to younger voters, and as Comedy Central reinvents itself for Generation Z, it’s clear that The Daily Show is at the center of its plans.

Full Frontal with Samantha Bee (TBS)

Sam Bee cut her teeth at The Daily Show, and she has taken the laughs to another level during the first four seasons of her very own program. Her team pulls no punches analyzing many aspects of today's crazy world. 

Full Frontal won an Emmy for its "Not The White House Correspondents Dinner," so you know she'll do whatever it takes to make these conventions interesting. Her political stance is very clear, but she holds everyone accountable while making you laugh.

Triumph The Insult Comic Dog (HULU)

There's nothing officially scheduled yet, but there's no way the brilliantly funny Robert Smigel will stay away from these conventions and this election.

I highly recommend Triumph's 2016 Election special on Hulu to get a sense of the craziness around our political world only four short years ago.

Once you start down the Triumph rabbit hole (apologies to all dogs), make sure you search for this insult comic dog's take on Star Wars, Hawaii and Bon Jovi concerts. You'll laugh until you cry.

Schoolhouse Rock (DISNEY+)

I grew up on this ABC interstitial series from the late 1970's, and the History Rock portion holds up just fine. Ask anyone my age how the Constitution starts, and they'll sing (not say) The Preamble. 

This throwback takes you through our entire political process. It's all covered here - women's suffrage, manifest destiny, and of course, the saga of a lonely bill just sitting up on Capitol Hill. 


If there's quality TV that I'm missing, please let me know.

Wear a mask. Stay healthy, cool and safe.


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