As I've previously explained, none of these Sunday shows get impressive ratings as a general rule. And that's because their audience is basically limited to three groups of people: Beltway insiders, really old people, and people who have become immobilized on a semi-permanent basis and are thus unable to reach their remote controls and change the channel.Then Linkins compares "Meet The Press" with the newest Sunday topical show, which just happens to be hosted by a comedian on HBO...
One of the best things that has happened to broadcast news this year is the advent of HBO's new show, "Last Week Tonight." "Last Week Tonight" was advertised in a shaggy-dog sort of way, with its host -- former Daily Show correspondent and fill-in host John Oliver -- explaining what a poor job the show was going to do at keeping up with the newscycle and reporting the news. Then it debuted, and instantly demonstrated that what they'd always intended was to do a better job then everyone else. (The fact that it is, technically, a "Sunday show" is not a coincidence.)Read Linkins' entire piece here.
The speed with which "Last Week Tonight" has surpassed nearly all comers in terms of quality should really alarm people. It explains without being condescending. It gets "inside" the story without fronting like an "insider." It treats the audience as people who are capable of handling the material, while remaining concerned enough about the matter to show its audience things they don't already know. And then they really report the facts that have remained occluded. This is one of those enterprises where the secret, hidden information is actual information and not some pundit's exercise in counter-intuition.
Of course, it helps that "Last Week Tonight" is also screamingly funny. This is something that "Meet The Press" would definitely be better off never, ever attempting, ever. But it's not jokes that that are getting people to stick around and watch 16 minutes on nutrition supplements. It's the purpose. It's the fact that the show wanted to have a point. It's the fact that the producers and writers and host visibly put in the work. And it's the fact that they convincingly demonstrate real respect and genuine concern for their audience, instead of trying to get over by posing as an "insider" operating under a veil of savviness.