By Jeff Jarvis
October 03, 1988 12:00 PM

Syndicated (daily, check local listings)


USA Today: The Newspaper is okay. I: The Reader like it because it’s a quick kick to read; it’s stuffed with information; it fills a need. So I thought I would like USA Today: The Television Show. But no. The people who vidified this newspaper made many fatal errors. First and worst, they created a show that talks down to America. They say someone’s star is rising, and then the image of that someone dissolves into the shape of a star, which rises in the sky. Duh, we get the picture. Later they give us a child’s cartoon to help our feeble minds comprehend what a certificate of deposit is. Duh, thanks. The show is afraid not only of taxing our intelligence but also of offending us, any one of us. They question Iran’s U.N. Ambassador about his country’s sending children to war and then apologize for doing so: “There is a dark side we had to ask about.” This is a PR person’s dream; Muammar Gaddafi’s flack should try to book him now. But most amazing is that the show—unlike the newspaper—is practically devoid of information. Yes, we learn that 30 million of us fish and that 17 percent of us would throw our pets off cliffs for $1 million, and we get an un-depth report on the push to name May 25 National Tap Dance Day. But the stories all end before they say anything. We hear a question asked of Miss America but do not hear her answer, as if even she would be too weighty for this lite venture. There is nothing useful here, nothing fresh, nothing that vaguely resembles news. The producers argue that this isn’t a news show. But they don’t seem to know what it is. Unlike the paper, USA Today: The Television Show was not born of need; nobody sat in a meeting and said, “America desperately wants a show that’s useless, that’s lighter than airwaves. America craves Styrofoam TV.” No, this thing was born on some yup’s spreadsheet. First they decided to make a show, then they worried about what that show should be. Sounding like a used Gary Hart campaign speech, they proclaimed that their show would be new, new, new! But it’s not. It’s filled with every cliché of TV news: “All that and more tonight!…Up next!…But first!…” The anchors themselves are TV clichés; they are as stiff and pretty as silk plants. And the stories are the worst of local TV news: lazy, fluffy and criminally incomplete. The producers just don’t understand what makes the newspaper good. They think that like babies and animals, we are drawn to the paper by the pretty, flashy colors. That’s insulting to the paper and to us. To quote USA Today; The Theme Song, that’s “duh…duh…dumb.”