When it was announced that Thomas Roberts was returning to MSNBC dayside to anchor a straight newscast, TCG was dubious. The anchor doesn’t have an especially good record of sublimating his political views. Today’s debut clearly positioned itself as traditional news rather than opinion. There was a fair amount of apolitical content: a lengthy package on road rage (that might have been borrowed from NBC broadcast), and several lighter segments dealing with pop culture matters and the like.
Among the more serious topics, the upcoming Netanyahu speech got the most attention. In the first hour Roberts had State Department spokesman Marie Harf on to give the administration’s side of the controversy. Then in the second hour, Texas Congressman Lloyd Doggett was brought in to give the administration’s side of the controversy. Neither was particularly challenged on any points, let alone interrupted. In both instances Roberts made it a point to bring up the $13.1 billion of “taypayers’ money” set to go to Israel, and in the Doggett segment he phrased his reference in a particularly revealing fashion:
Explain how diplomacy, vs taxpayer dollars, really adds up to a mess in what we’re seeing with this invitation and speech before Congress.
The most-promoted aspect of the premiere was a one-on-one with Donald Trump, which turned out to be a phoner like the ones he does every Monday (today included) on Fox & Friends. Unlike the typical Fox segment, a good chunk of Roberts’ discussion dealt with marriage equality, with the anchor accusing Trump of “evolving backwards.” The Donald did not agree with that characterization. Roberts recovered by expounding on the feasibility of Trump besting Einstein in an IQ contest, or something.
The production was blandly professional (the occasional glitch notwithstanding); if the premiere gets any social media talk it will probably center around the host repeatedly donning, then removing his spectacles. The bias will be mostly overlooked, but that’s what The Cable Game is here for.