TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2020
Straight ahead, "World's Dumbest:" If the consequences weren't so vast, our nation's apparent brain cell drain would be comical, little more.
How extensive is the highly destructive "Dumbness Culture" which has led to this winter of our discontent? Consider what happened when Stephen Brill decided to start a basic cable channel.
Brill was a graduate of Yale (class of 1972), but also of Yale Law School. As of 1979, he'd already founded The American Lawyer, "a monthly magazine covering the business of law firms and lawyers in the United States and around the world."
In its initial thumbnail, the leading authority on Stephen Brill also describes him as "the author of the best-selling book, Tailspin: The People and Forces Behind America's Fifty-Year Fall–and Those Fighting to Reverse It."
Brill has written several other books on major policy topics. These books have always commanded mainstream attention, whether deserved or not.
In short, Brill has long been a major upper-end figure. In 1991, he launched the basic cable channel known as Court TV.
The comedy starts when we consider where Court TV ended up. The leading authority on the channel thumbnails the channel's early history in the manner shown:
Court TV...was originally launched in 1991 with a focus on crime-themed programs such as true crime documentary series, legal dramas, and coverage of prominent criminal cases. In 2008, the original cable channel became TruTV.
Cable television channel Courtroom Television Network, known as Court TV, was launched, on July 1, 1991 at 6:00 am Eastern Time, by founder Steven Brill, and was available to three million subscribers. Its original anchors were Fred Graham, Cynthia McFadden, and Terry Moran...
The channel originally consisted of live courtroom trials that were interspersed with anchors and reporters. It was led by law writer Steven Brill, who later left the network in 1997.
"In 2008, the original cable channel became TruTV." That's where the unfortunate but instructive comedy starts.
(The leading authority makes one factual error in the passage we've posted. We've corrected that mistake with an unmarked edit. As best we can tell, Vinnie Politan didn't start as an anchor at Court TV until 2001.)
One can presume that Court TV was launched as at least a semi-serious venture.
Fred Graham, the channel's lead anchor, had already had a lengthy career as a legal correspondent for the New York Times, then for CBS News. McFadden and Moran were younger, but they'd been recruited from major mainstream organizations. They went on to have journalistic careers at major mainstream news orgs.
At least to appearances, Court TV began as a semi-serious venture. That said, the thumbnail history of the channel also tells us this:
"In 2008, the original cable channel became TruTV."
According to several sources familiar, it's at this point that the gods on Olympus begin to laugh.
In fairness, the devolution of Court TV is one of the most familiar stories in the history of "basic cable." The leading authority on TruTV thumbnails that channel's early history as shown:
TruTV (stylized as truTV) is an American basic cable channel that is owned by AT&T's WarnerMedia under its Studios and Networks unit.
The channel was originally launched in 1991 as Court TV, a network that focused on crime-themed programs such as true crime documentary series, legal dramas, and coverage of prominent criminal cases. With its relaunch as TruTV in 2008, the channel revamped its lineup with a focus on reality docusoaps and "caught on camera" programs, which the network marketed as "actuality" television.
The new brand was intended to accompany a larger shift towards action-oriented reality series which did not necessarily involve crime or law enforcement, such as Black Gold, Hardcore Pawn, Lizard Lick Towing, Ocean Force, and the caught-on-camera series World's Dumbest.
Sad! But so it went as Court TV took on new life as a channel so dumb that it doesn't even spell the word "true" correctly!
Simply put, the dumbness is general when we review the history of this change. Concerning the new channel's attempt to draw a distinction between "reality" and "actuality," the leading authority tells us this:
TruTV promoted its new positioning under the slogan "Not Reality. Actuality." Network staff argued that the term "reality" had become associated with "unrealistic" programming, and that it wanted to emphasize that its new programs would feature "real" people.
So "network staff" are said to have "argued." How the gods must laugh!
At any rate, within a fairly short time span, the channel had proceeded from analysis by people like Brill and Graham to "docusoaps" and to such programs as Hardcore Pawn and Lizard Lick Towing—but also, to an endless series of dimwitted programs which were literally branded as "World's Dumbest."
For a review of the World's Dumbest brand, you can just click here. As Judy might have said to Toto, we'd come a long way from Yale Law School, even perhaps from Yale!
In fairness, there's little we can hope to learn from one such transformation. That said, the devolution from Court TV to World's Dumbest is only one of the clownish but instructive transformations which have taken place across the basic cable dial.
Our award-winning "Brain Cell Monologues" start right here, with this initial sighting. Tomorrow, we'll move on to more of this basic cable clowning, and we'll expand our field of view by discussing Brill's next well-intentioned launch.
We liberals find it easy to spot the "brain cell drain" among regular people found in the other tribe. That said, this brain cell drain has been evident in all aspects of American life over the past three or four decades. This includes widespread apparent brain drains put on display by our own tribe's members and by our own tribe's honored sachems.
We've decided to start this history with the road which led from Brill to (the literal) "World's Dumbest." But the full story extends all through our nation's failed and failing intellectual culture, leading us now to Trump.
The deeply disordered Donald J. Trump actually didn't start this. To an embarrassing but deeply instructive extent, our own tribe's sachems did.
Tomorrow: More of this clowning in basic cable. Also, Brill's subsequent magazine launch