In 1978, in addition to Johnny Carson’s recurring Carnac the Magnificent character, NBC concluded one of the funniest episodes of the original Saturday Night Live with a sketch titled “Next Week in Review,” in which Laraine Newman played “Maxine Universe,” who interviewed a trio of psychics played by that week’s host Steve Martin, along with Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin. Newman began the segment thusly:
Good evening, and welcome once again to “Next Week in Review”, the show that believes any news is old news if it’s already happened, and dares to predict what’s going to happen next week. [ to her guests ] Well, psychics… you did superbly again last week. You batted 1.000 once more. Mitzi, you predicted that the Panama Canal Treaty would be approves by a 68-to-32 vote… Cocuwa, you predicted that Harry Reasoner would be leaving the ABC News because he didn’t fit in with the plans… and, Kreeg, you predicted correctly that world heavyweight boxing champion Leon Spinks would be arrested for driving without headlights and having cocaine in his hat. Um — but let’s get on to tomorrow’s headlines: What does next week look like? What’s going to be the big story?
Flash-forward 35 years, and what was satire is now “reality” — or whatever passes for reality on the Flight 370 obsessed CNN and its sister network, Headline News, which has enlisted a psychic(!) in a bid to reveal the missing Boeing 777, as Guy Benson writes at Hot Air:
I’ve gone out of my way to avoid writing about the missing airplane, even though many Americans evidently find the mystery’s allure to be irresistible. Let’s face it: CNN isn’t going wall-to-wall with the story because of its intrinsic news value. I’ll freely admit that there’s something about aviation disasters in general that is morbidly fascinating, so a bizarre case involving a massive jet with hundreds of souls aboard simply vanishing is inevitably going to attract lots of eyeballs. And yes, some of the morsels of evidence that have emerged only add to the intrigue That being said, the media’s endless speculation about this case — in the absence of much tangible news — strikes me as profoundly unseemly. Some of the coverage has descended into self-parody. In a much-derided segment, CNN anchor Don Lemon asked if there was any merit to a theory that the plane was swallowed up by a black hole. (Bravo to the guest who deadpanned that even a small black hole would have sucked in “our entire universe, so we know it’s not that”). CNN’s sister network, HLN, took the theater of the absurd a step further, hauling a psychic on air to offer the following “insights:”
It’s mind-numbing stuff to sit through, so here are the relevant bits from the transcript:
“Naturally, I don’t have hard, concrete evidence. I think any psychic who has hard, concrete evidence can’t do their job correctly…They’ll just work off what they know. I tend to work off what I don’t know….I kept feeling as though yes, there are some people who have passed away…I do believe that it actually crashed, and I see a lot of trees. I think there is a larger organization behind this that is leading us off track with this debris.”
There’s definitely a larger organization that’s leading its viewers off track, and that’s CNN and parent company, the Time-Warner-CNN-HBO conglomerate — which understands that its credibility has long been in a black hole — why not go crazy obsessing on a story if it provides a temporary bump in ratings?
And speaking of a network that long ago discarded credibility, MSNBC’s Chuck Todd certainly gets the chutzpah award, slamming a rival leftwing network for “Another day of ‘breaking news’ based on finding nothing or in other words, ‘not breaking news.’”
It’s a valid complaint, but perhaps the spokesman for a network with a bridge to sell you isn’t necessarily the best man to be delivering it.