I want to elaborate a bit more on Fox News – but this time, focus in on Bill O’Reilly. I am always talking about personality-driven shows. And Bill’s show is certainly personality-driven. An easy way to tell is – you don’t watch when someone is filling in for him. But Bill is an enigma because, to put it bluntly, I can’t stand him – but I watch him. And I suspect I’m not the only one who watches him because they can’t stand him. That fact alone makes him a rare breed among TV personalities.
I have never met Bill. I don’t know him. I have no “inside information” about him. All I know is what I see on TV and YouTube. Let’s start with that infamous clip from Inside Edition. If you haven’t seen this, it speaks volumes:
I have worked with hundreds of anchorpeople, a few of them far richer, far more famous, and far more talented than Bill O’Reilly. But I have never, once, come across an anchor who would behave this way on set. This behavior is an unforgivable breach of common decency and King World/CBS should have fired him on the spot. Nevertheless, he moved on from there to Fox News and The O’Reilly Factor.
Again, like the network, the only words I can use to describe The O’Reilly Factor are brilliant and genius. And I mean just that. I don’t know if the format was the brainchild of Roger Ailes, Bill or a producer. But the show is fascinating to watch – from beginning to end. And here’s why.
When I watch that show, I often find myself seething with anger. I will suddenly begin to notice gastrointestinal changes in my body that start in the pit of my stomach and soon consume my torso. All that happens before I even realize that I am angry. And that anger is what connects me to the show. As any good TV producer will tell you, if you can make an emotion connection with your audience, then you’ve won them. But I didn’t realize that the same is true for negative emotions. I watch because I believe O’Reilly is utterly unfair to any guests who disagree with him or have a different viewpoint. He’ll cut them off, shut them up, threaten them, “ban” them from his show. He’ll yell and scream and call them unpatriotic and verbally abuse his insubordinate guests. And there I sit, the enraged viewer, powerless to inject a sense of civility or fairness into the proceedings. It’s all just part of the show, I suppose. Bill often offers his guests the “last word”. But what you realize only after you dissect the format in great detail is that it’s Bill who gets the “final word” without saying a thing. His slightly askew, “fuck you” smirk always closes the show, leaving my stomach acids eating away at any flesh they come in contact with. Urrrrrgh!
I have to be honest. I don’t know if that is O’Reilly’s intent – or if he would prefer viewers be on his side. I don’t know if he purposely wants that mask to come off and reveal him, in my opinion, as the overgrown playground bully he never outgrew – or if my stomach symptoms occur simply because I’m not a right winger who supports his views. Either way, the method to his madness is nothing short of brilliant. Nothing else on TV, or in real life for that matter, has aroused so much raw, perfect rage in me. I applaud O’Reilly for pushing buttons I wasn’t even aware I had. That’s genius.
I now try to enjoy despising O’Reilly in moderation. I have deleted his show from my TiVo record list. I don’t want to live my daily life in an angry stupor. But I’m keeping an eye on Bill. And I’ve found the perfect replacement – Lil ‘O’Reilly. I don’t know who produced them, but they are equally brilliant. This kid is dead-on!