Ed Driscoll

NBC: We'll Leave The Lights Off For You

When George Bush was elected president, I was told he would usher in the new dark ages. And they were right!

As exciting a game on the field as the first half of tonight’s Cowboys at the Eagles was, the program that NBC built around it sure did have its moments of strangeness:

NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” officially will become a “green” show this weekend, as it kicks off an initiative that will see the broadcaster televise 150 hours of environmentally-themed content this week across its broadcast and cable networks, online sites and mobile platforms.

Green week will start one hour into “Football Night in America,” at 8:00pm ET. That’s when studio host Bob Costas will explain the initiative.

About 90 seconds before the end of the pre-game show, NBC literally plans to turn the lights out, having the pregame crew finish the show in the dark. The studio lights will stay off through the halftime and post-game shows.

I had to not see it to believe it. Whenever I’ve done videos, I’ve spent hours getting the lights just so. Who knew that all you had to do was say, “Hey man, we’re going dark to be green”, and no lights at all are necessary.

Television: It’s like radio without pictures!

Seriously though, all religions have their rituals which seem strange, old-fashioned, and just downright rococco to outsiders, and this is yet another example. (But wouldn’t turning off the 90 babillion kilowatts of power that light-up a night game at the “Linc” have saved a helluva lot more energy than turning off a handful of Lowel Omnis back at the studio?)

For decades conservatives have complained endlessly about the big three TV networks’ biases, only to be rebuffed by television journalists and producers who would respond with a shrug, “Biased? Us? Huh — sorry, I just can’t see it, myself.” (CBS’s Dan Rather, not surprisingly, was a master at this technique.)

But lately, NBC has really let it all hang out, even on a show as mainstream as Sunday Night Football. Pink, the rockerette who screamed the show’s theme song last year is a PETA spokeshumanoid. (Happily, this year she was replaced.) Keith Olbermann, who routinely compares conservatives to Nazis on NBC’s MSNBC cable outlet appears on the pregame show and at halftime. This week show featured ads for Al Gore’s upcoming appearance on 30 Rock, beyond Obama’s appearance last night on Saturday Night Live. And elsewhere on NBC, their flagship Nightly News show is hosted by a man who has compared America’s founding fathers to terrorists.

Earlier this year, retired Army Col. Ken Allard, then a regular contributor to NBC, had enough:

It is, therefore, possible to argue that NBC is merely undergoing a delicate arabesque in anticipation of changing audience preferences and the long- hoped-for Democratic restoration (although journalists generally seem reluctant to raise the tough questions that should punctuate the 2008 campaign).

But has anyone else noticed the network’s precipitous retreat from journalistic and ethical standards? Not only were no apologies given and no pink slips issued for Arkin’s outburst, but on his MSNBC show last week, Keith Olberman went out of his way to defend this “valid criticism” of our military.

In January, Conan O’Brien was allowed to escape without apology after airing a particularly tasteless gay skit deriding Christianity: “Oh, Jesus, I love you, but only as a friend.” (Just try doing that sometime using Mohammad’s name!)

And only this week, questions have been raised about the cozy relationships between CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo and the companies she covers as a supposedly objective journalist. The response by Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of GE and godfather of the NBC family: “Substantially, I don’t think she did anything wrong.”

Fine: Let’s hope he’s right. But sometimes the only way to show where you really stand is to vote with your feet. And so with great reluctance and best wishes to my former colleagues, with this column I am severing my 10-year relationship with NBC News.

At the end of the 2004 presidential election, Howard Fineman of Newsweek wrote:

A political party is dying before our eyes — and I don’t mean the Democrats. I’m talking about the “mainstream media,” which is being destroyed by the opposition (or worse, the casual disdain) of George Bush’s Republican Party; by competition from other news outlets (led by the internet and Fox’s canny Roger Ailes); and by its own fraying journalistic standards.

And if anything, that trend has only accelerated.

So thank you, NBC, for letting viewers know where you stand. After after 80 long years of pretending otherwise, doesn’t it feel good to finally come clean with your audience?

You can read related thoughts from Sister Toldjah — assuming the lights are still on in your den. And The Sundries Shack would like NBC to disclose each show’s carbon footprint — “so I can determine whether they have any grounds on which to criticize me for my lifestyle.”

Finally, “I notice they didn’t turn off the bright lighted Toyota sign.” Heh.TM