Category: TCG Classic

Everything Old Is New Again

When better than on a #ThrowbackThursday for The Cable Gamer to run across a surprising reappearance from those thrilling days of yesteryear? The Cable Game 1.0 debuted over 15 years ago. Its mix of inside gossip and pointed snark ignited speculation about who was behind it. The speculation increased exponentially when, some years later, it suddenly closed up shop, disappearing entirely (except for the echoes that could be accessed via the WayBack machine).

And that’s where “New Free Games” comes in. That’s what the header says but the URL tells a different story: “” At this address you will find hundreds of posts from the original Cable Game blog. Here’s one about Bret Baier. The blog’s treatment of Keith Olbermann was relentlessly unsparing. There’s a handy search box to find posts about your favorite (or unfavorite) cable personalities of the time. A drop-down menu divides the posts into months, but your Cable Gamer couldn’t get it to work. Interspersed with classic TCG posts are occasional entries about video games. No, we don’t know why.

If you want a stroll through cable news history you could do worse than visiting this site before it, like the original, unceremoniously vanishes. Here’s an item involving a fellow named Stelter at the New York Times. The last sentence is eerily prescient.

Throwback Thursday: The Cable Game in 2009

MV5BMjE3Njg5NzY2OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDMxNjEwMg@@._V1__SX1320_SY1209_Clicking around today [Jan 1], The Cable Gamer was able to watch enough news, including the commercials and promos, to get a better sense of who the cable newsers want to be in 2009. What’s the “meta message” of their news? What do they want us thinking about , and wondering about, as we decide whether or not to tune in? What frame of mind should we be in? The short version is, MSNBC, “zzzz”; Fox, “be very afraid”; and CNN, “do what we tell you.”

OK, actually, I didn’t watch much of MSNBC today, because the “news” all day today was reruns of “Dateline,” or some other drek left over from NBC. So the message of MSNBC is, forget the breaking news from the Middle East, or politics, or the economy, and just focus on cheesy prison documentaries from five years ago.

Which is to say, MSNBC does not seem to be living up to its own mission, which is to offer viewers the opportunity to “experience the power of change.” That was MSNBC’s tagline even before the 2008 election. In other words, MSNBC was mirroring the “change” mantra of the Obama campaign, even before the votes were all counted. BloggerMark Finkelstein was, I think, the first to observe that MSNBC, in its blue enthusiasm, was making itself a de facto part of Barack Obama for President campaign, federal election law notwithstanding. The Cable Gamer has always wondered whether news fans will really want to watch a network that styles itself as part of the Obama operation, but if today’s TV is any indicator, MSNBC has already concluded that there’s more money to be made running stale repeats. Sorry Barack!

Next, Fox, which offered live news all morning, before shifting over to Bill O’Reilly repeats, which were, at least year-end-ish and topical—Dick Morris’s Top Ten greatest political mistakes of 2008, Dennis Miller’s Top Ten Pinheads, etc. Meanwhile, Fox’s new post-election promo is its own little drama, an almost “24”-ish take on all that is going wrong, and could go wrong, in the world, mostly explosions and pumping fists from around the world. The key words flashing by are, “As the world changes … stay with Fox… no one does it better.”

(The video above is two-fer: it not only shows the Fox promo, it also shows another MSNBC promo, albeit one not approved by MSNBC.) The Fox ad shows a world of storm and stress, and while some clearly see the world in such terms, other folk will likely say, “Hey, let’s give Obama a try—he has to be better than George W. Bush!” And those latter folks, the optimists, will, of course, have a good point. Which is not to say Fox won’t have fun with its Armageddon-ish message. It is after all, better to be cautious than too carefree.

And so, last and not least, we come to CNN, which is running a new promo of its own, in which an intoner—not James Earl Jones, but someone equally serious—intones, over Inauguration-ish B Roll, “On January 20th, the world will watch the networks of CNN.” Note the word “networks.” Of course, CNNFN folded, and CNN Headline News is just a shadow of what it once was, and also, I guess CNN Airport News counts as a separate network.

But the main argument for CNN, and it’s a legit argument, is that it’s truly an international network, with an international sensibility. It really is true that if you go overseas, the most likely news outlet that you are going to see on TV is CNN. So CNN is probably smart to make the most of its greatest strength: It is #1 around the world, via CNN International. And so to the extent that people like to watch the news as part of a herd—watching what’s safe, what’s known, what’s peer-approved—then CNN has an effective promo there.

Indeed, the sort of ambient inevitability that the promo puts forth—”the world will watch”—is sort of in keeping with the times, where Obama’s vote and money machine seem Borg-like in their ineluctability. Which is to say, CNN is in tune with creepy corporatist times, where people behind closed doors make all the big decisions, and then tell not only us, but also Congress.

As an aside, have you seen the trailers for the new movie “The International” starring Clive Owen and Naomi Watts? They include this tagline: “They control your money. They control your government. They control your life. And everybody pays.”

Sounds about right!

Now I realize that CNN is not that powerful—indeed, CNN is much less powerful than it was in the 90s, or even the 80s—but it still has a pervasiveness. CNN International, indeed.

Reposted from The Cable Game, 1 January 2009

Throwback Thursday: The Callous News Network’s ’05 Blunders…Their Loss, FNC’s Gain

bill hemmer blue casual.0MarketWatch’s Jon Friedman gives out Media Web’s good, bad, and ugly of 2005:

THE CALLOUS NEWS NETWORK – CNN’s media relations team dropped the ball and looked like the Cartoon News Network when CNN threw Aaron Brown overboard (not that CNN looked much classier when it cut loose Bill Hemmer). By the way, practically no single news event in 2005 sparked as many emails from outraged Media Web readers as Brown’s unceremonious exit.

And points out that no matter how you feel about Bill O’Reilly, he’s still the king:

IF YOU’RE GOIN’ TO SAN FRANCISCO, BE SURE TO WEAR SOME FLOWERS IN YOUR HAIR – Yes, I mean YOU, Bill O’Reilly of Fox News, since you sounded off in your trademark delicate way last month about one of America’s great cities. “Listen, citizens of San Francisco,”, among others, breathlessly quoted O’Reilly as saying, “if you vote against military recruiting, you’re not going to get another nickel in federal funds. Fine. You want to be your own country? Go right ahead… And if al-Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we’re not going to do anything about it. We’re going to say, look, every other place in America is off limits to you, except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead.” Coit Tower is a San Francisco landmark. Bill O’Reilly is a landmark loudmouth – and a genius at self-promotion.

Reposted from The Cable Game, 16 December 2005

Throwback Thursday: Harris Faulkner, Too Beautiful for the NewsHounds

51Y4xENhxYL._AC_UL320_SR212,320_It’s got to suck to be a NewsHound. Think of it: sitting in your darkened living room, one trembling hand poised over your computer keyboard as you try to clean the fog from your glasses with the other—hey, when the only cardio you get is from breathing heavily from the strain of hating FNC hosts so strenuously, you’ll take it—as a relentless parade of smart, beautiful, cheerful and charming Fox News anchors appear on the screen, perhaps reminding you that your chosen career path of professionally hating Fox News is perhaps not the most upwardly-mobile, intelligent, or sanest thing to devote your life to. Case in point: Trying to find something to criticize about drop-dead gorgeous FNC correspondent (and all-around winner) Harris Faulkner:

Global Warming: It’s All Good On FOX News
It was good news only about global warming from FOX News during the news break on Hannity & Colmes tonight. As Harris Faulkner reported that last month was the warmest on record, video of golf courts and golfers appeared on the screen. Did she even mention the words, “global warming?” No. Instead, she proved again to be a good little foot soldier for the Bush Administration by chirping, “It was the warmest on record, giving Americans a break on their heating bills!”
Reported by Ellen at February 7, 2006 10:37 PM

Yeah, I know. What exactly is this Ellen person whipped up about? Nothing. There’s no “there” there—as usual, when the NewsHounds can’t find anything to criticize, they’ll just throw up a snippet of transcript and call it a story, and hope that no one will point out that if the NewsHounds were an emperor, they’d be naked as a jaybird. As in no clothes, people. In the final analysis, zapping Harris can be placed in the tiresome old category of hating someone because they’re beautiful—and that category falls into the category of the bitter loser’s bread-and-butter. Nothing new under the sun, son.

It’s also interesting that NewsHounds can’t figure out how they feel about FNC and its coverage of global warming. Between all the hissing and all the applause, I don’t even think they know how they feel.

Reposted from The Cable Game, 10 February 2006

Throwback Thursday: Cable News, the Miniseries

bush robertsThis will be the first Supreme Court nomination of the cable news era. This is a Pink Floyd moment: as they sang, “Welcome, my son, welcome to the machine.” Back in 1994, when Stephen Breyer was confirmed, there was only CNN. There was no MSNBC, and no Fox. Back then, too, the broadcast networks felt much more of an obligation to cover the news.

Last night, what was striking was that the broadcast networks couldn’t wait to get back to regular programming, while, of course, the cablers couldn’t wait to dive into the story and wallow around—and of course, they’ll be doing that for months to come.

So while NBC’s Brian Williams was lucky, because he got continued face time on MSNBC before throwing it the weighty Tucker Carlson, it was a quick sayonara for CBS and ABC, back to “Big Brother 6” and a sitcom. But cable has its own dynamic. First off, it will make room for just about anybody—any member of the DC Bar, or anyone who can claim close—is likely to go trooping through the various cable green rooms, ready to make his or her case as to why he or she should be promoted from mere “talking head” to “legal analyst.” CG noticed, for example, that Jonathan Turley has gotten his teeth whitened. Way to go! Next, filling in for Tony Robbins!

And of course, the activists will fill up air time: the Usual Suspects acronyms—FRC, PFAW, NARAL, NOW, CC—are all going to be heard from. The first battle of the Internet age…extreme polarization.

Second, it will allow for new kinds of branding. For example, CNN went with sober and serious: Candy Crowley, always authoritative. Blitzer on CNN said liberals in the Senate might oppose, but “the moderates will hold sway.” And even Jeffrey Toobin, always kind of a smart aleck, conceded that Bush’s pick was “pretty smart politics.”

While MSNBC, led by Joe Scarborough, went for histrionics. Bush has “swung for the fences,” Jolting Joe said last night, as part of the White House’s alleged effort to “profoundly change America” on issues such as abortion. Which is actually the opposite of the truth. Roberts is a conservative, but he’s no “bombthrower” as they like to say inside beltway, no Robert Bork or even Edith Jones. Indeed, Roberts is so uncontroversial that he was approved on a voice vote by the Senate just two years ago.

Of course cable, the New Media, doesn’t have the field to itself. Not only is there talk radio but also the Drudge Report, which first started up in ’95, although it didn’t become famous till ’98, with the you-know-who story.

But mostly, this is going to be a cable news saga. A first. Welcome to the machine!

Reposted from The Cable Game, 20 July 2005.

Throwback Thursday: If CNN Is “The Most Trusted Name in News,” How Come Six of the Seven People Pictured Are Gone?

Screen shot 2011-03-18 at 6.48.42 PMRecognize these people in the screen grab? These serious and/or smiling faces are all seen on the CNN website, right now, which would lead the innocent viewer to assume hat these are the CNN-ers viewers should trust. But there”s a catch: Surveying those pictured, we see that almost all of the seven folks pictured are no longer at CNN.

In her previous post, The Cable Gamer noted that CNN’s self-declared tagline, “the most trusted name in news” might need to be tweaked just a bit in light of CNN’s error—caught by Mediaite—in identifying the location of big cities in California and the spelling of other important California locations.

But now, after a bit of digging, TCG has discovered a much bigger error—maybe all of CNN’s fact-checkers got laid off to pay for Anderson Cooper’s ad campaign, or Jon Klein’s severance package. Let’s take a close look at that picture above:  Second from left, that’s Aaron “The Dentist” Brown. He’s long gone. In the middle, Lou Dobbs, once a star at CNN, until he was kicked off the air for speaking his fearless mind. Now, of course, Dobbs has found a happier home at Fox Business Network, which no doubt thanks CNN for the plug. And next to Dobbs is Christiane Amanpour, now at ABC. And over their on the far right, in her overlit and photoshopped glory, is Paula Zahn—who knows what she is doing. That’s four, gone totally. And then, far left, is Wolf Blitzer. OK, he’s still at CNN. That leaves two: Judy Woodruff, third from left, and Larry King, second from right. King seems still to be under contract with CNN—perhaps just to keep him quiet—and maybe Woodruff is, too. But Woodruff and King are certainly gone from CNN in any meaningful way, that is, in a way that a viewer would know.

A close look at the picture. Once again, it’s still on the CNN site as of 7 pm ET. This is not a cache:

Yup, this page is all there, in all its anachronistic glory, until CNN gets around to taking it down. We can note that in the lower left, it says, “copyright 2003…an AOL Time Warner Company” which indicates two things: First, that the picture is seriously out of date, not only in terms of year, but also in terms of corporate ownership, as AOL was long ago spun off. And second, we are reminded that CNN has suffered some pretty serious talent-carnage in the last eight years. Here’s a closer look at those gone-from-the-air faces:

Ah “the pursuit of the truth.” Yup, that’s what CNN does alright, starting with its obsolete website self-touts. And that link in the lower right goes right back CNN’s home page, and then back again. So this is real, a real statement of where CNN thinks it is as of today, Friday—at least until its gone.

Amusingly, CNN relies heavily on the strength of its website as a response to those who point out that the cable channel is third or even fourth in the Nielsens.

Original comments:

cornycob said…

Judy Woodruff is at the PBS Newshour. Paula Zahn hosts what I believe is the most-watched show on Investigation Discovery (the channel is something like that, anyway it a Discovery offshoot). I think she might actually be getting more viewers now than she did at CNN, although I think her show is just a once a week affair.

Reposted from The Cable Game, 18 March 2011

Throwback Thursday: Ted Koppel To Cable News Viewers, Eat Your Broccoli, You Brainless Brats

broccoli.1So Ted Koppel’s written his first piece as a columnist for the New York Times. Editor & Publisher reports:

[Koppel’s] view is that journalists “should be telling their viewers what is important, not the other way around. ”

In a surprise conclusion, he suggests that perhaps rather than aiming news shows at the disinterested younger segment, the networks should focus on serving older consumers who actually are interested in serious news. (Is there a lesson for newspapers here?)

The goal for the traditional broadcast networks now “is to identify those segments of the audience considered most desirable by the advertising community and then to cater to them,” Koppel writes. “Most television news programs are therefore designed to satisfy the perceived appetites of our audiences. That may be not only acceptable but unavoidable in entertainment; in news, however, it is the journalists who should be telling their viewers what is important, not the other way around.

“Indeed, in television news these days, the programs are being shaped to attract, most particularly, 18-to-34-year-old viewers. They, in turn, are presumed to be partly brain-dead — though not so insensible as to be unmoved by the blandishments of sponsors.

“Most particularly on cable news, a calculated subjectivity has, indeed, displaced the old-fashioned goal of conveying the news dispassionately. But that, too, has less to do with partisan politics than simple capitalism.

“Now, television news should not become a sort of intellectual broccoli to be jammed down our viewers’ unwilling throats. We are obliged to make our offerings as palatable as possible. But there are too many important things happening in the world today to allow the diet to be determined to such a degree by the popular tastes of a relatively narrow and apparently uninterested demographic….

“If the network news divisions cannot be convinced that their future depends on attracting all demographic groups, then perhaps, at least, they can be persuaded to aim for the largest single demographic with the most disposable income — one that may actually have an appetite for serious news. That would seem like a no-brainer. “

Got that? Here’s a rough translation of Koppel-speak: “You, American news consumer, can’t be trusted to ask for, or get, the information you want or need. People like me need to do that for you. And if you’re under 34, go watch MTV or something, so the elite media can go back to blaming any and all national failings on uninformed youth.”

But here Koppel gets to the meat–or, rather, that dastardly broccoli–of his argument:

“Even Fox News’s product has less to do with ideology and more to do with changing business models. Fox has succeeded financially because it tapped into a deep, rich vein of unfulfilled yearning among conservative American television viewers, but it created programming to satisfy the market, not the other way around. CNN, meanwhile, finds itself largely outmaneuvered, unwilling to accept the label of liberal alternative, experimenting instead with a form of journalism that stresses empathy over detachment.”

So Koppel’s bummed that FNC is so ragingly successful, of course, so again he reverts to the elitist complaint that the FNC’s viewers are happy with programming that doesn’t jive with the unbalanced worldview of the Koppelian liberal hordes. [Cue violins here.] And while he rightly roasts CNN’s journalism-by-group-therapy, it’s only in the service of dissing the network for–publicly, anyway–refusing to call itself liberal, biased, and proud.

Whew! Quite a first effort as NYT columnist for Ted! I would’ve expected nothing less. Your side lost the news wars, Ted, but what the hell–as long as you want to stay a worthy opponent, we can keep sparring!

Reposted from The Cable Game, 30 January 2006