Jimmy Kimmel revealed last night that his show was behind the twerking-girl-catches-fire video that recently went viral, and he capped his segment with a montage of all the news and talk shows that had aired and discussed the video. Here, in this one hyperconcentrated minute of tape, can be found just about everything wrong with TV news today.
1. The twerking video, to my America’s Funniest Home Videos–trained eye, was clearly a gag. (Why else was the camera shut off so abruptly?) But in presenting it, the anchors have to act like it’s a real thing to rationalize it being on a news broadcast (traditionally the home of factual information); they add an obligatory disclaimer of “some are saying it’s fake” to show their skeptical bona fides. As if the verifiability of this dumb but funny viral video really matters at all.
“Human interest videos” are not an entirely new development in news: Viral videos are just the latest evolutionary step. Long before the Internet appeared, newscasts were capped by awwwww footage of koalas being born at the local zoo, or a local man trying to set a pogo-stick world record. The main difference is that at least the pogo stick guy, trivial as his hopes and dreams may be, was really bouncing.
2. Witness the sheer breathlessness of the introductions, every word imbued with a “Do you have a bag pulled over your head to protect your upholstery from the shards of your imminently blown mind?” intensity. Let’s for a moment accept that putting funny footage on the news is a worthy endeavor. Okay, then why are they intent on rendering it unfunny with this oversell? Is anything made more amusing by preemptively overexplaining it? Would the stateroom scene from the Marx Brothers’ A Night at the Opera be funnier if preceded by Groucho saying, “Watch what happens when all these people come in here, this is gonna be a major cruise ship fail!”
3. That awful newsman cadence, the rushed words followed by the drawn-out emphasized word. “Now the internet is on FIRE … ” Do they turn off that voice when the newscast is over? And if not, do they leave a trail of exhausted people wherever they go?
4. The awkward attempts to use modern vernacular: “This is a major twerking fail.” These efforts are so lunging that I hope the anchors have spotters crouching just below the camera. Jane Fonda saying “my hizzie” on The Newsroom felt more natural.
5. KTLA in Los Angeles aired the video that WorldstarHipHop stamped with its logo, the news producer apparently just grabbing the first video an intern found, and not bothering to see if that’s where it originated. The biggest criticism about today’s TV news is that they just put up facts as they come in without taking the time to verify them or look for context, in the interest of speed. This segment reveals that “the public’s right to know immediately” can also just be a euphemism for “eh, just get it up so we can go to lunch, I’m sure it’s fine.”
There are so many more ridiculous aspects to be found in this footage; like a crossword puzzle, once you put it away and come back to it, more is revealed. Ironically, now this new Kimmel video will likely go viral, and these news segments will get passed around where major fails! are meant to go: the Internet.