|Or Not, And Don't Break Our Hearts|
I'm older than most of you people, and was on the Internet back when being on the Internet was, well, painful. 300 baud, monochrome monitors, big expensive monthly phone bills for anything but local boards. Back in those days, guys outnumbered girls by at least a 100 to 1 ratio, most people online were idiots, but the ones that weren't were good people. I wound up getting a gig at an Internet start-up in 1985 as a 16-year-old, and with the occasional hiccups, have worked online ever since.
At the time when I started online, there were nearly a half dozen truly great newspaper comic strips. Calvin and Hobbes, Doonesbury, The Far Side, Dilbert, Bloom County... every Sunday morning was a fight in my house for the funnies. We all knew it was a golden age of cartooning, but when it was going on, it was just, well, the Sunday paper. Gimme.
It's impossible to tell when you are in an age, or when it's just the new normal. In the 1920s, baseball writers kept waiting for offense to go away, probably when Babe Ruth retired; the 1930s took that level of offense and nearly doubled it. You'd have made a good chunk of money betting on how 3-point shots would just keep going up for the past two decades in pro hoop. Passing yardage in the NFL. Costs of advertising in the Super Bowl. Boom markets don't always turn into bust markets, especially when the boom makes everyone a good chunk of change.
Which brings me to the curious case of "The Nightly Show", which was canceled today, and is playing out the string for the rest of this week. And man alive, has Comedy Central turned the 11pm hour, something that they just owned with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, into a much cheaper and much less effective hour of experimentation. Trevor Noah got the chair for Stewart instead of John Oliver, Samantha Bee, or someone else that, um, might have cost money. (Sorry to be rude, but the truth is frequently rude.) And Wilmore, I believe, was just set for failure, since his lead-in wasn't nearly as strong anymore, and a portion of the Colbert audience followed their man to his new toothless existence at CBS.
Oliver and Bee are, of course, doing just about the best hour on television right now, between the long-form civics lesson that HBO sponsors, and Bee's take-no-prisoners feministic assault on TBS. Wilmore's show wasn't perfect, but it had real moments of quality (I'm a fan of Mike Yard, and Grace Parra's parody of mindless entertainment reporters is also completely great.)
But it lost 30% of Colbert's audience, which is probably never coming back. I'm sure that they'll replace it with the latest product of their assembly line of attractive smug young person playing an insufferable jackass (see Tosh, Devine, and depressingly often, Schumer)... or some other half hour of animated tripe that isn't South Park, and South Park hasn't been good in forever, either.
Yeah, I'm old, and trying very hard not to say that everything is going to hell in a hand basket, because hand baskets really need to stop being the only hellish transport system. Plenty of things are great now, actually. The chance that you will die in a war keeps going down. Medical technology keeps getting better. Netflix and Hulu and all of the other streaming services are better than anything we could have imagined back in the VCR/VHS days.
But satire on television that redefines the news into the actual media we deserve, rather than the one we suffer through, with all of its false equivalency and bull spit narratives?
That peaked a couple of years ago, when Stewart and Colbert gave us four hours a week of essential stuff. Instead of now, when it's just the single hour of Bee and Oliver.
Who, as good as they are, take more vacations, and aren't nearly as likely to create the next Bee and Oliver...