Let the long goodbye for this slumping show now begin -- Glenn Beck's production company has confirmed that his 5 p.m. program will end by year's end, and Beck himself opened today's show with reasons why. (See video below.) There have been a handful of stories in recent weeks suggesting an end is near, all precipitated by a major ratings decline, and now it is official:
“Glenn intends to transition off of his daily program, the third highest rated in all of cable news, later this year.”
"Fox News and Mercury Radio Arts, Beck's production company . . . will work together to develop and produce a variety of television projects for air on the FOX News Channel (FNC) as well as content for other platforms including FOX News' digital properties."
Indeed, viewership has plummeted -- 1.8 million viewers in January, or down 39 percent from January 2010 -- and the reason is that as a viewing experience, Beck's show has undergone a radical transformation. At launch in Jan. 2009, he was humorous, sharp, lively, passionate and off the cuff. Mostly Beck was an effective conservative voice who used humor -- and his own unique style of discursive news analysis -- to gain a very passionate viewer base. He was a huge hit on the radio, too. And then, a change -- he became professorial, long-winded, and launched into detailed analyses of things like "E4," or empowerment, entrepreneurialship, education and enlightenment, and the ways America could return to glory, or rants against stuff like "normalcy biases." There were also jeremiads against people like George Soros -- highly detailed critiques that some critics say verged on anti-semitism. In fact, Beck is hugely pro-Israeli, and may well be one of the country's biggest supporters on TV.
Nevertheless, he's infuriated some Jews, and African-Americans -- notably a lot of others, too, when he said (later apologized for saying) that President Obama hates whites -- and on and on and on. Many advertisers have bolted from the show, except for those omnipresent "buy gold" ones -- and there have been plenty of reports that he's even alienated his Fox overseers, which are certainly no strangers to pugnacious, apocalyptic pronouncements or anti-liberal diatribes. If you read, and believe, all of the new reports -- nobody likes poor old Glenn anymore. Maybe his family does.
But at end of the day, it was and is really all about the show. And the show is simply unwatchable. To a certain extent, it's morphed into a power-point presentation, complete with charts, and graphs and sets filled to brimming with all sorts of busy props illustrating whatever blistering drone he's launched into. It's all became terribly talky, and as a viewing experience, watching day after day, also an unsettling one -- you're not sure where a detailed rant, which often drips with sarcasm, is beginning or where it ends; moreover, Beck tends to delve into obscure financial or political subjects that require a certain level of knowledge on the part of the viewer. That's good - but the average viewer is also completely adrift at sea if he or she doesn't have an expertise (for example) on a Republican-sponsored proposal that seeks to limit the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases without Congressional approval, and why this is important to the war on terror, and the budding Islamofacist movement in Yemen.
Beck is talking about big stuff; it's just hard to tell, sometimes, what the stuff exactly is.