Memo to Hank Stuever, Washington Post TV critic: Why don’t you tell us how you really felt about Donald Trump’s appearance on “Saturday Night Live”?
Stuever’s “review,” which hit the stands at 3:52 a.m., is less an analytical look back at Trump’s much-ballyhooed appearance last night than it is an outpouring of bile toward a politician he obviously can’t stomach and a rebuke of the show for betraying its principles (whatever those would be).
The article opens with a lie, or at least an effort at misdirection: “Donald Trump’s highly touted and almost certainly inappropriate hosting gig on NBC’s ‘Saturday Night Live’ turned out to be an anemic and halfhearted dud.”
If the show was unfunny (which would hardly be a novelty), as Stuever implies, he never gets back to telling readers why. Instead he continues in the same desperate off-the-rails vein: “Once upon a time, not so long ago, there might be a lesson to learn from Saturday’s boring and misspent episode — but that world no longer exists, certainly not where politics and TV intersect. Everything’s turned upside down. Bring back the old America, I say, the one where our preeminent vehicle for topical satire would have ably skewered a hateful, nonsensical, vainglorious presidential candidate, rather than invite him into the club and give him more of the empty-calorie media attention he seeks.” [Emphasis added]
Don’t get Stuever wrong. By “old America” he doesn’t mean pre-Obama. He means pre-Trump. His past writings reveal a deep and abiding devotion to political comedy on the small screen — as long as it is by and for liberals. Consider his fawning review of Stephen Colbert’s last show on Comedy Centeral:
The show was so good and so meticulously performed that you could, in fact, not watch it. That, too, is high praise. It’s rare for a show and a performer to become so enmeshed with the zeitgeist that ratings become a moot point. Only the most loyal citizens of the so-called Colbert Nation truly needed their nightly dose of the layered political satire that Colbert mastered in the guise of “Stephen Colbert,” a narcissistic, conservative blowhard spouting his fact-averse commentary on the day’s news. [Emphasis added]
If you read rummage through enough of Stuever’s TV commentary, you discover that the highlighted passage describes every commentator on the right.
Ultimately, there is no way a writer as closed-minded as Stuever could watch an hour-and-a-half of Trump without experiencing agitá or excoriating the show that would allow him air time. But he shows himself to be an equal opportunity critic of the media themselves:
“SNL” is not alone in its mistake — every media outlet (The Washington Post included) has wrestled with intense bouts of Trump fever, especially late-night TV, which for several months has joked about and imitated Trump and, of course, invited him to appear on their shows. No one seems able to deal him the ultimate blow and ignore him.