Sunday, December 08, 2002

After After Hours

Just got done watching the premiere episode of the new Fox News Saturday night chat show "After Hours with Cal Thomas". Despite the name, it’s not an SNL parody. (And one can tell this because this “After Hours” actually produced a few laughs). No, no this show exists in all it’s well intentioned earnestness and according to reports, it will be back on the air next week. After hours--with Cal Thomas!? I’ve followed the man’s career (and respect his writing) and know a little about him. As such, I would have guessed that if you had a camera crew show up to film Cal Thomas “after hours” you would have ended up with nothing more than footage of his fourth hour of deep REM sleep (as I take him for an "early to bed, early to rise" type).

Granted this was the first episode, so I’ll allow for the possibility that the rough edges may be smoothed out over time. But at this point it was all concept and no substance. Mr. Thomas stated in his monolog that he was trying something a “little different” compared to what we normally see on Fox. So naturally I assumed he meant liberal doses of Peter Jennings-like Canadian condescension and Dan Rather style glazed looks and dazed rambling. But instead it appears he wants to set a new tone with his program, compared to the full contact argument shows normally seen on the news channels. He’s attempting to create easy, comforting civility and relaxed, country club sophistication, with a touch of Lawrence Welk va-va-va-voom to spice things up for the younger folks (like Strom Thurmond).

His guest list consisted of Dick Cheney (in a taped interview segment) and some wee little New York cabaret singer whose apparent claim to fame was being Liza Minnelli’s protégé back in the 1970’s. Yes, in certain parts of Manhattan that is a claim to fame and not a reason to seek counseling and therapy.

The Cheney interview was unremarkable. Both the types of questions asked and the responses given added no new information to what any sentient being on planet Earth is already aware of. (Oh really, the war on terrorism is the administration’s top priority for the next 2 years? Nice question Cal. Next, why don’t you ask him which political party he’d prefer to have as the majority in Congress.)

The interview with the singer was equally as bland. However, we did got a song from this singer (which I guess is more appropriate than getting some geopolitical analysis from him). He did “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and sounded like an overly breathy Harry Connick Jr. (which is roughly equivalent to being an overly nasal Tom Petty). The high point of the show was during this song, when the director cut to an angle from behind Cal Thomas’s chair, and we got a prolonged shot of the blurry silhouette of a seated Cal in the foreground while the camera focus remained on the singer, now in the background. I’m not exactly sure what the artistic pretense of this shot was, but I will say the TV audience did have the opportunity to monitor how well the back of Cal Thomas’s head was enjoying the music, which apparently wasn’t all that much, since it remained stoic throughout.

For the morbidly curious, this will be a weekly half hour show, scheduled to run at 10:30 PM (Central) on Saturday nights on Fox News. Since the vibe of this first program had that same sick, car accident gawking appeal the Chevy Chase Show used to have for me, rest assured I’ll try to be a regular viewer.

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