Posted by: Chris | February 14, 2011

Glenn Beck is Lost

A surprisingly apt summary of the appeal of Beck’s show and how it differs from other versions of opinutainment:

If Beck’s demeanor as a host is almost entirely televangelist/college professor-inspired, the show itself has the demeanor of, as mentioned, a daytime soap opera and a mystery show, taking the best elements of both and tossing them into the “storyline” of the show. Over the course of the week, Beck built a lengthy, often incoherent argument about what was going on in Egypt (outlined in the second paragraph), starting from a series of news articles, then leading up to the big conclusion in Friday’s episode. The structure is all daytime soap: Tease something on Monday. Pay it off on Friday. On One Life To Live, maybe two characters are locked in an embrace on Monday and they finally kiss on Friday. It’s the same thing here, only on Monday, maybe Glenn insinuates that the extremist Muslims are winning in Egypt, and on Friday, he says he’s got the proof that they have.

This wouldn’t be nearly as popular as it is, however, without the mystery show element… Beck’s greatest success has been not just to draw these tangential connections in his monologues; it’s been to perch those monologues atop an ever-growing, incredibly complicated talk radio “mythology,” of the sort you might have seen on, well, Lost. (For the unaware, in TV writer terms, “mythology” means the elaborate backstory that makes everything else make sense. It was coined by writers on The X-Files to explain the alien conspiracy storyline on that show.) Glenn Beck is almost completely isolating for people who’ve never watched the show before and don’t have a passing familiarity with this aforementioned mythology, which creates a giant, centralized series of dark mysteries where the rest of the world sees a bunch of barely left-leaning technocrats. When I summarized what Beck was trying to explain this week, I’m not entirely sure if I got all of it, because most of it was based on a set of assumptions, assumptions that I probably don’t share but also assumptions I didn’t even think to have in the first place. 

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