Credit where it’s due: Rarely will you see a crap sandwich devoured with the sort of gusto displayed in the video below. If prior media reports are accurate, this is not a guy who’s reacted well in the past to seeing his profile at MSNBC lowered. Last November, when the whispering began that he’d soon be replaced, he handled it … predictably. And yet there he was last night, practically ready to high-five the cameraman over his banishment to the Island of “Lockup” Re-Runs. If he’s feeling bold, he should end tonight’s show with the clip of Ian Faith talking about Spinal Tap’s appeal becoming “more selective.” Have fun with it!
The change may be one of tone rather than numbers. Schultz’s ratings have been solid — he was the second-highest-rated host on the network in February — but his barnstorming, Midwestern, labor-friendly brand of populist liberalism has come to look more and more at odds with the increasingly elite and wonkish tone taking hold on the rest of MSNBC. The network has spent its last year grooming hosts like Chris Hayes, Melissa Harris-Perry and Ezra Klein, all of whom bring a far different approach to their work than Schultz.
Yeah, his show always felt more like an exercise in ideological box-checking by MSNBC (“we’ve got to have someone whose focus is labor”) than something the network was fully behind. They can spread the union talking points among the rest of the line-up; if they want to be the network of young liberal self-styled intellectuals then big Ed’s not their guy in the heart of primetime. Chris Hayes is. For what it’s worth, I find Hayes’s weekend show surprisingly watchable. That’s not a defense of his politics, which are sufficiently left-wing to produce chin-pulling over whether Hugo Chavez was as bad as conservatives say and whether we should call fallen soldiers “heroes.” But the format of his show is engaging even when the guests are liberal. It’s a panel of four for a full hour (or was, the last time I watched it) devoted to exploring different facets of a single topic, so the talking points run out quickly. After years of enduring the typical cable format of one pundit each from the left and right doing their shpiel for five minutes followed by a commercial and then two new pundits doing their own shpiels for five minutes on a different topic, it’s something different. And as Bill Murray said in “Groundhog Day,” “Different is good.” The punchline is, now that Hayes is in primetime, there’ll be pressure on him from MSNBC to change the format so that he’s covering the day’s news rather than tackling a specific topic, which means he’ll probably end up resorting to the same-old-same-old cable format too. Oh well.
I wonder when they’ll finally dump Chris Matthews for Ezra Klein. Tick tock.