US News You Lose!

 

 

Two superficially dissimilar international new stories dominated American television during my stay: the recession-distraction English wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton and the American-inflicted death of pesky terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden. I tried to avoid both of them as much as possible for different reasons. It embarrasses and depresses me that Britain’s international image is so dominated by such a ludicrous, dull and anachronistic institution such as the Royal family. The triumphalism and party atmosphere surrounding the coverage of Bin Laden’s demise on US news channels was alarming and bloodlusty, and I wanted no part in it, even as a spectator. So when I did come into contact with these stories it was primarily by accident and outside the domain of news. I’m not going to slam American TV news outright as so many foreign interlopers do. The cliché of US news channels failing to mention or appropriately cover key international events has a ring of truth to it, and that was increasingly evident while I was there with the lack of information circulated about Gaddafi and the Libya rebellion when in retrospect it seems, in the words of Superhans, it was ‘all kicking off’. But this also means a lot more time for local news reporting, meaning civic or regional matters are extensively covered and debated on TV (however banally), and from a country where regional TV news is in jeopardy, this makes it even more treasurable.

News Coverage of the Royal Wedding

The Royal Wedding is US TV News

But these stories were difficult to escape. All my morning shows on the day of the Royal Wedding were attended or discussed by the hosts with a bizarre royalty-envy that ill fits a country founded on telling the King of England to fuck off. Hard to take was Barbara Walters’ live reporting from London, which spat on her American colleagues’ intentionally comic captions as ill-informed nonsense. She then laboriously took us through the correct Royal conventions and traditions in an extreme case of racial Stockholm Syndrome not seen since Madonna starting drinking Timothy Taylor. Regis and Kelly press-ganged their audience into Royal Wedding approval, nationally humiliating those who dared to question the ceremony’s success. At least there was an appreciation of the camp value of the ceremony in some quarters, with the ladies on The View and the panel on Kathy Griffin’s Insightful and Hilarious Take on the Royal Wedding mock-recoiling at the Queen’s garish outfit, head-shaking at the cartoonish behaviour of the Duke of Edinburgh, and hand-rubbing about the potential upstaging of the bride by Middleton’s bridesmaid sister Pippa. Some of this TV detritus actually came upon some accidental insight when The View’s Sherri Shepherd pointed out the blatant racial segregation of the wedding guests, which felt more like the latent anti-monarchism I had hoped would rears its head.

Other commentators had similar problems. The barrage of Royal biography programmes preceding the Wedding on celebrity magazine channels like E! featured voiceovers done in a strange Anglo-American Esperanto, a vocal non-space between peppy MTV VJ and female Tory junior minister. The highlight of the Royal Wedding tie-in programmes was undoubtedly the Lifetime TV movie ‘William and Kate’. Not only were the two lead actors as physically unlike their real-life personages as a pint glass is to a donkey, but the actors cast as their relatives looked completely unlike them also. According to the film, William and Kate studied at The Department of Narnia Studies at The University of Hogwarts, regularly time-travelled to 19th Century rural Ireland for nights out, and William’s fraternity played a daily game where they may only speak in dialogue written by P.G. Wodehouse.  

Princes William and Charles

 

During Dancing with the Stars on the Monday following the killing, host Tom Bergeron somehow managed to crowbar in a reference in response to guest judge Donnie Burns’ remark ‘Nobody but nobody does showbusiness like you Americans’. Bergeron’s face said ‘fuck, yeah’ as he tangentially retorted ‘We Americans have shown ourselves to be good at a few things these past couple of days’. This was followed by an uncomfortable driftwood of applause smelling faintly of public ambivalence, or at least massive unease with Bergeron bringing such a brutal thought into a light entertainment package. Though evidently not the place or time, the pukewarm reception on Dancing with the Stars was far more representative of the melancholy most intelligent adult Americans feel about this than the news footage of masses of young party people using the death of Bin Laden to squeeze another Spring Break out of the calendar.

Dancing with the Stars' Tom Bergeron

'Mission Accomplished' says Tom Bergeron

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