January 6, 2009

Cable News Goes to Graceland

by J. Max Robins

Those thinking that the most exciting race for the White House in modern history would lead to a higher level of discourse on cable news should think again. Less than two months after the election and only weeks away from the inauguration of Barack Obama, the number one news personality among the 25-54 demographic is... CNN Headline News ambulance chaser Nancy Grace.

Pounding away nightly on the Caylee Anthony murder case, where the two-year-old victim's mother, Casey Anthony, stands accused of taking her daughter's life, Grace has hit a ratings jackpot. Fox News's Bill O'Reilly may bring in more total viewers, but Grace is chipping away at his lead as of late and besting O'Reilly's nemesis, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, too.

Grace's ratings ascension is evidence that we're back to the good old bad days of cable news—a steady diet of murder and mayhem. Indeed, Grace's recent resurgence may be our post-election reality check. Instead of talking about where this country is headed and what the challenges are, we're being fed gruesome details about how a little girl's life ended, with Nancy Grace playing judge, jury, and executioner.

Some media brass, with an eye on the bottom line, will embrace this return to the scene of the crime as manna from the news gods. Grace's former Headline News colleague Glenn Beck, now at Fox News, will swim easily in these waters. Likewise, it's a comfort zone for Fox's O'Reilly and Greta Van Susteren. To that whole crowd, the sensational murder or celebrity trip to rehab has to seem like a better formula for success than railing against a popular president-elect whose honeymoon is likely to last at least the proverbial 100 days.

CNN's Larry King will also happily play in the same sandbox. Anderson Cooper will get dirty, too, but he won't enjoy it, and it will likely stall the progress he made during election season when he reached first place in the 25-54 demographic at 10 pm. My guess is we won't see too much more of CNN's ubiquitous slogan: "The best political team on TV."

Two players who could get hurt in the ratings if crime keeps paying are MSNBC's Olbermann and Rachel Maddow. While Maddow will delve into the occasional whacky story, she is unlikely to steer away from her pointed perspective on political and social issues or sully her hands with gruesome murder stories. Olbermann, who aborted his first tour of duty at MSNBC back in 1998 after having to focus his program on the Lewinsky scandal, would certainly balk at going tabloid.

Meanwhile, Nancy Grace may express true grief and outrage for the Caylee Anthonys of the world, but when she looks at the Nielsen ratings, her tears are likely to be ones of joy.

  • That the defense had even less proof to back their claims than the state seemed completely irrelevant to these jurors. Defense attorney Jose Baez said in his opening statement that Casey Anthony had been molested by her father; and that George Anthony had covered up his granddaughter’s accidental drowning, but not once during the entire six-week long trial did Baez even broach those claims. The <a href="http://www.bottled-hcg-diet.com/">HCG diet</a> that Casey Anthony had no real motivation to kill her daughter — other than her own selfishness — might convince any reasonable jury to find Casey’s actions even more heinous.  But this jury found a way to wave off all the evidence right under their noses.


    ThommyL, September 15, 2011 at 11:14 am

  • First step is to increase the multiple scrawls at the bottom of the screen to cut off as much of her Grace as possible. Then work on losing the audio. Now that's change we can believe in


    lawoffice, January 07, 2009 at 3:44 pm

  • "God help us. If this is the kind of crap tv that Americans like to watch then we are doomed to fail as a nation. Hopefully Nancy will die of cancer or something worse.. preferably something quick. How about death by burning car wreck that she can't get the seat belt losse from and she burns alive. Even this would be too good for this skank of human. kim , January 07, 2009 at 12:18 am " --- ahh... but therein lies the problem Kim... which blonde bimbo with a razor tongue would they find to rehash nancy grace's demise seven hours a day for the next twelve weeks?? I actually don't wish for her death... just chronic laryngitis, maybe complicated by recurring bronchitis? she might have a law degree, but that doesn't qualify her to be judge, jury and executioner... which is exactly how she comes across. I see her face, I flip the channel. I suspect her higher ratings have to do with so many republicans avoiding political television these days... its either nancy mace or soapnet. I just wish the viewers would realize that soap operas have a continuing story, as opposed to the rehash of the S.O.S. you see on nancy mace's show 24/7. maybe if she just discovered a good SSRI she'd be a bit less venomous?


    Soundboy_Jeff, January 07, 2009 at 11:23 am

  • Kim, Is it really that bad that you have to wish for someone's death by cancer? That's pretty horrible. In fact you are using the same sensationalism in your post that you say you deplore in others. If people didn't watch Nancy, it wouldn't be on. I find it annoying (all Kaylee all the time) , but there are other "news" sources out there. Tune in to C-span or npr and get over it. Just like Ann Coulter, and the supposed controversy over her being "banned from NBC". She promised to "pull out at the last minute" if invited back. Well, guess what--she went on. SHe's milking it for all it's worth--any way you can get attention or notoriety. At least Britney is behaving like a human being now. COulter probably never will.


    rayy, January 07, 2009 at 9:50 am

  • Ah yes, Nancy Grace, bringing out the middle-aged vigilante woman in everyone that watches the usual mindless crap on the MSM.


    JJ, January 07, 2009 at 8:38 am

  • God help us. If this is the kind of crap tv that Americans like to watch then we are doomed to fail as a nation. Hopefully Nancy will die of cancer or something worse.. preferably something quick. How about death by burning car wreck that she can't get the seat belt losse from and she burns alive. Even this would be too good for this skank of human.


    kim, January 07, 2009 at 12:18 am

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