It was a huge week on American Television and I feel a blog coming on. Cagney & Lacey got a very nice ... if not totally accurate... break in the Huffington Post, Fox News and its founder Roger Ailes have proven themselves to be even bigger (and more important) than anyone really thought they were, and Jon Stewart exited the stage at Comedy Central.
I totally get Stewart's desire to get out while on top. But I now also better empathize with all those fans of Cagney & Lacey and The Trials of Rosie O'Neill who were disappointed at my decision to leave town at 58 years of age. Even so, "disappointed" doesn't nearly describe my sense of loss at Stewart's leaving The Daily Show. What an icon he is. What a fabulous career he has had. He literally redefined on-air genius in the performance category and was (perhaps) even greater as a producer of the show that has forever made its imprimatur on America and most of those who watched it over the past 16 years. Ave, Caesar, Morituri te Salutant.
Ailes and Fox News may take a little more time to explain. First of all, they totally obliterated the primary function of a major political party, which is to select the candidate to be its standard bearer. The Republican National Committee surrendered that prerogative (some might say duty) to a cable news channel and stepped aside while Roger Ailes and his minions all but arbitrarily set up rules of just who might be one of the two major candidates for the office of President of the United States and then didn't even adhere to those. That is only part of the tale. They then went on to produce a pretty good show(s) in the form of two separate (and unequal) debates, fed the candidates plenty of red meat for the right wing base of the party, and then (post show) proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that it's standard bearers (namely Megyn Kelly) have more support than any that were on that Fox Stage, including the acknowledged front runner-by far, none other than Donald Trump. Trump had gotten away with insulting a war hero in John McCain, the Governor of Texas and the US Senator from South Carolina ("Got away" did I say? It made him even more popular... Give 'em hell, Donald, seemed to be the cry). But then The Donald went a bridge too far. Insult Obama? No one cared... in fact they loved it. Hillary? They loved that even more. But Trump misplayed a hot hand. He thought he could trump Roger Ailes, Fox News and Ms Kelly and get away with it. Mistake. Megyn Kelly has been feeding the far right the Ailes substitute for sustenance for years. She is to the far right what Mother Teresa was to Catholics.... only prettier. Ailes set the stage by having his minions ask for a show of hands. Who would NOT pledge to support whomever was the official Republican nominee and assure the rest that he would not start a third party run for the White House? No one asked that question at the lesser debate that took place on the same Fox Network two hours earlier and why should they? No one cared about those folks and why tip off The Donald as to what he was in for? Right off the bat, that was question number one and the right wingers in the audience at the auditorium squirmed when it was asked, but booed when Trump gave his answer by being the only one to raise his hand. The We Shall Over Comb candidate never fully recovered, but some might say more or less held his own for the remainder of the two hours... almost. Not good enough for Donald Trump. He started tweeting in the wee hours of the morning... something right out of the Cagney & Lacey villains handbook: "Her time of the month or what?" That was the line that got even the CBS censors outraged and that was 1980. Holy smoke... Trump crossed that line of political ineptitude 35 years later and he has yet to fully get the impact of what hit him. Like I said... Big week in American Television.