The timing for Comedy Central’s newest faux news special couldn’t be better.
The past few days saw ABC News serve up a megaton retraction, followed closely by Reuters and CNN. It’s almost like they knew the channel had a special dubbed Fake News in the offing and wanted to lend a hand.
Only The Fake News with Ted Nelms isn’t what you expect.
Fake News, debuting at 10 p.m. EST Dec. 13, isn’t interested in roasting real headlines. The stories here are genuine fiction, even if President Donald Trump, Minority Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other politicians appear during the hour-long special.
This isn’t yet more hard-left comedy ignoring half the nation. The news media is in the cross hairs, not any politician with an “R” before his or her name. It’s the presentation, stupid.
The slick graphics.
The condescending tone.
The supercilious sanctimony.
The talentless talking heads.
Silly polls that reveal … nothing.
It bears repeating that the vast majority of Fake News isn’t political at all. Case in point? A recurring segment on President Trump getting trapped in a well. It’s goofy and meant to mock media coverage far more than the current Commander in Chief.
Yes, there’s still room for bipartisan comedy in our culture. And, at its best, The Fake News shows how funny it can be when you’re not stuffing sketches with talking points.
Sure, faux anchor Ed Helms and co. poke fun at the President’s Twitter tics. It’s not done in a cruel, or overtly political fashion. When the special cuts and pastes politicians caught on video it’s only for guffaws, not to hammer home a partisan point.
We even get a segment mocking both the “Deplorables” and “Snowflakes” weaponizing a killer’s identity for their selfish political needs. Sharp stuff, and a fine example of fair and balanced political humor. A quick shot at Fox & Friends breaks the mood, but only for a moment.
Even with an eye on bipartisan yuks the special can’t help but bash the Second Amendment. One “news” segment dubbed “Guns: Guns?” features a fake town hall offering two sides of the gun control debate.
Ned shoots the pro gun control expert to make a clumsy point. He then asks the Second Amendment supporter if his attack changed her mind about gun control. She blurts out, “Maybe a good guy with a gun could’ve stopped you?”
The segment’s ideology is suddenly in your face … The spell cast by Helms’ shtick vanishes. Otherwise, we’re treated to one liners that shred every aspect of TV news.
“Is there a moose in your house? The answer may surprise you…”
Helms is right at home here, and it’s more than just his own faux news legacy as a Daily Show alum. His Ted Nelms arrives fully formed, a simpleton with just enough manufactured gravitas to make us think he’s the real deal.
His timing is impeccable, too. Even Helms can’t save every gag. Some jokes land hard without a net. Others quickly lose their snap, like a riff on Internet trolls that grows weaker as the segment progresses.
The special would have soared if cut down to a half hour showcase. It’s also unclear if a weekly Fake News series makes sense.
Fake News best running bit is a tad naughty, but it’s too hard to resist. We watch a bystander who calls himself “Mike Rotch” get his 15 minutes of fame punking the news team. Ol’ Mike shows up later, but we won’t spoil the context here.
The show’s satirical edge sharpens over time. Just how much should you trust your local news anchor? Countless hours of real “fake news” makes that question hit home.
Let’s get one prediction out of the way. The Fake News with Ted Nelms might catch heat from liberal reporters.
Sure, the special is funny. It’s still wrong to stay politically neutral in the Age of Trump. That just normalizes his administration, some will cry. Here’s betting you’ll see a variation of that argument sooner than later.
Ignore it and savor a rare, apolitical news satire.
[Cross-posted from Hollywood in Toto.]