I noticed a big billboard in the cineplex lobby on my way out from having seen (and loved) Birdman. I was in the big cineplex across from Manhattan's Lincoln Center.
Remember the 1976 classic, Network, the satire with its award-winning original and prophetic screenplay by Paddy Chayefsky? Peter Finch played aging, avuncular network news anchor, Howard Beale. Beale's newscast is traditional and low-rated.
I saw Network in its theatrical release. I saw it several times, it was that good. Movie audiences always howled with laughter at the sight of a national newscast with an applauding studio audience. We TV viewers were still in the Walter Cronkite era then. We still had a line between news and programming. It was slimmer than before, but it was still present.
I used to hear people talk about the news features done by Cronkite or Peter Jennings -- or the editorials by Eric Severeid and the investigative reports by journalist pitbull Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes. It's different now. Today millions of TV viewers talk about and are devoted fans of satirical newscasts with studio audiences that laugh, applaud and cheer. Actor/comedians are asking harder, more probing questions than some TV journalists are. These hugely popular actor/comedians who give us the news are...Jon Stewart, the most popular host of The Daily Show...
I thought of all that when I saw this billboard in the cineplex lobby. It was full of rave reviews for a new political drama, directed and written by Jon Stewart. Notice the words "the world's leading fake newscaster."
I wish Paddy Chayefsky had lived long enough to be a guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to discuss the state of TV journalism today. That interview would rock and folks would definitely talk about the following day.