“Paddy Chayefsky was looking at the downfall of television,” Ron Simon, the curator of radio and television at the Paley Center, recently told The Observer. “Now Howard Beale has become what you’re striving for if you’re an authentic type of guy.”
Mr. Simon said that today’s rising crop of emotional newscasters were employing successful techniques from two eras of American broadcasting.
There were the daytime talk shows of the ’80s, in which onscreen emotional breakdowns were the culmination of the program, the moment of authenticity in the otherwise stale setup of interviewer and subject.
And, more obscure, the early days of radio in the 1930s, when emotionally over-the-top announcers attracted large audiences of Americans fearful about the growing threat of fascism overseas and economic turmoil at home.
Today’s new emotional media is a hybrid beast: Phil Donahue meets Charles Coughlin.