Is Giving Alec Baldwin a Show The 'Best Idea MSNBC's Had In a While'?

Some left-wingers adore the newest program at MSNBC. Alyssa Rosenberg at Think Progress thinks "Giving Alec Baldwin A Talk Show Is The Best Idea MSNBC's Had In A While."

Never mind Baldwin's old dreams of killing Osama bin Laden and then killing Vice President Dick Cheney with the terrorist's corpse. "If MSNBC is supposed to be a smart, enthusiastic place for intelligent analysis and discussion, Baldwin brings a dash of celebrity and sex appeal to that mission." His apparent tryout for MSNBC came with a talk show/podcast called "Here's The Thing" on New York's taxpayer-funded radio station WNYC, and he passed for liberals with flying colors:

Baldwin's stature meant that he was able to pull an impressive roster of guests to WNYC, from Chris Rock, to Dwight Gooden, to Jill Abramson. And where Baldwin can be combative in other media, on the podcast, he's thoughtful and curious, quizzing Abramson about her time at the Wall Street Journal and the role of her legal writing experience in her later reporting, or teasing out the differences between Lena Dunham and the character, Hannah Horvath, she plays on her HBO show Girls, and with whom Dunham is frequently conflated. Because of his work in the entertainment industry, Baldwin has a lot of experience he brings usefully to bear in interviews about culture. Where he's not an expert, he's curious, as when Baldwin asked Andrew Luck about how studying architecture and the math required for it interacted with his development as a quarterback…

It also expands the network's coverage of culture, which has cropped up in Rachel Maddow, Melissa Harris-Perry and Chris Hayes' shows in particular, at a time when Al Jazeera America has entered the market with regular culture segments, and Jeff Zucker, who came up through the entertainment side of NBC and NBC Universal, has taken over CNN. Finally, Baldwin's likely one of the few figures who has a shot at success going up against Bill Maher in the 10PM Friday timeslot, where his reputation will lure in enough viewers to give his approach to interviewing time to take root. The best possible thing MSNBC could do with Baldwin is to encourage him to replicate his experience on Here's The Thing as much as possible, and trust that his curiosity will create moments in interviews that will last into the next week's news cycle.

The Left is not unanimous. At Salon, Daniel D'Addario asked "Why do liberals take Alec Baldwin seriously?" He has a "violent, misogynist, gay-baiting reputation," most routinely with paparazzi.

Even Rosenberg acknowledges "For all of Baldwin's gifts, he doesn't seem to have learned to manage his temper. And if I thought MSNBC was relying on his temper, or even Baldwin's outspoken liberalism, for the new talk show that the network confirmed today that Baldwin were host, I'd be worried about the result."

It's a bit odd that Rosenberg would be so cavalier about real-life misogyny when she's distraught about misogyny in video games.

At Politico, Dylan Byers pooh-poohed Salon: "It's important to remember that Phil Griffin, MSNBC's president, is a businessman, not a liberal idealogue. [sic] He fashioned MSNBC as a liberal answer to the Fox News Channel because it was a smart business move. Like his partners at NBC Universal, where Baldwin starred on "30 Rock", Griffin is willing to overlook the episodes summarized above."

But what about the next anti-paparazzi tantrum, the one that occurs after he's appearing on MSNBC?  Has Griffin figured out how he'll manage that?

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis