Phil Donahue's Biggest Fan (Who's Not That Girl)


In USA Today, Bruce Kluger raises the issue, "Why do mean-spirited TV shows lure Americans?" and then launches into an attack on Bill O'Reilly and Fox News Channel (proof to Kluger that "sometimes the bad guys do win").

Why oh why, he moans, don't more people watch Phil Donahue? Never mind the fact that a bunch already do, or that a quarter-century ago, Phil was seen as the leading indicator of the dumbification and emotionalizing of talk TV. The fault lies not in our stars, but in ourselves. Kluger rhapsodizes:

Donahue is the Obi-Wan Kenobi of conversation: genuine, affable, well mannered and well informed. But the magic ain't working this time. By year's end, his audience of 379,000 was about one-sixth of O'Reilly's 2.4 million on Fox.

Therein lies the problem: Donahue has not lost one bit of smarts since his heyday. American TV has.

We am sorry Bruce (and Phil).

NEXT: Begging to Be Overruled

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  1. Let me get this straight… Somebody at the USA Today is complaining about the dumbing down of America?

  2. Ryan – that is pretty hilarious, isn’t it? In fact, I rate that one up there with the recent U.N. headline as irony of the year. Someone from McPaper thinks that America has been dumbed down by the media.


    Thanks! I needed that laugh!

  3. Apparently it hasn’t occured to Mr. Kluger (Klingon pseudonym, perhaps?) that Donahue hasn’t been interesting since. . . well, ummmmm,
    Lemme think about that.

  4. Um, has this guy actually *watched* Phil since he’s been back on? He’s rambling and unfocused, doesn’t seem to understand what his guests are saying half the time (particularly when any kind of subtlety is being attempted), contradicts himself constantly, etc. I’m particularly embarrassed for him when one of his liberal guests makes a point Phil actually AGREES with, but Phil misunderstands the guest’s point and starts railing at them as if they’d taken the opposite position. When he first came on I was actually looking forward to having a good liberal-slanted cable gabfest on; I’m not a “liberal” myself, but cable TV is seriously topheavy with conservative shows at the moment, and I was looking forward to something a little different. Phil’s show, however, has been a big dissappointment.

  5. Dona-WHO? heh. He’s intelligent, but, to be blunt – he is very much out of step the times…his opinions are so far left when it comes to politics and social programs that it’s almost embarrassing to watch or hear. When his TV show from decades ago was popular, it WASN’T (IIRC) for his political stance/s…it was for the freaks and geeks that he showcased, long before Oprah, Ricki, and Jerry did it better than Donahue himself.

  6. Donahue may be intelligent or he may be stupid, but how’s he get credit for being “genuine, affable, and well-mannered”? He was pretty well-known for using the commercial breaks on his daytime talk show to rile up the studio audience against one or more of his guests.

  7. The best part of this was watching O’Reilly chew Kluger out tonight in response to the article….

    I will admit I watch Donahue, but with the same reason someone would watch Jerry Springer, to watch a train-wreck.

  8. Donahue is no longer interesting, and there are many (including me) who will say he never was. But I cringe at the argument that he’s “very much out of step the times?” Frankly, polls shows that the majority of Americans agree with him on many issues — abortion rights, to name one. But even if he is expressing a minority opinion, what’s so horrible about that? Are we so insecure that we can’t stand the thought of a dissenting voice? Shouldn’t we be welcoming differing viewpoints instead of limiting the airwaves exclusively to identical right-wing. Agree with him, disagree with him, hate what he stands for … I don’t care. But don’t attack him for being different. Goose-stepping uniformity should not be our Utopian ideal.

  9. “…O’Reilly devoted a series of programs to who was cheating whom out of relief money….”

    Isn’t this the kind of “tough questioning” that mainstream journalists profess to worship?

  10. Donahue was always amusing but never anything more. But the whimpering about a lack of dissenting comment and welcoming differing view points capped off by the goose-stepping quip is hilarious. The Left, hoards of people struggling to be different. Different makes you a victim, different makes you intersting, different somehow got all the attention. The reason the conservative voice is so powerful these days is the uniformity and the simple truth. 4 decades of the din of different has created a thirst for a simple thing done well. Worshipping different out of fear that anything else is uniformity is the fashion mentality. Id like to see some clean lines myself, then thats just me and what do I know I’m not an actor.

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