When I first started dating Monsieur Meow, I remember –now fondly– one of my first foot-in-mouth moments with him.
It was the moment wherein I declared that I couldn't believe any sentient human would watch C-SPAN for fun. And then he told me about all his favorite C-SPAN shows.
And then he tuned the TV to "Washington Journal."
And I seriously wondered if life was trying to test me.
But really, "Washington Journal" isn't so bad. Actually, it's quite entertaining.
Between you and me and the world at large? It's possibly one of the most brilliant and unintendedly funniest shows on television.
And I am forever grateful to my sweet husband, he who's expanded my weltanschauung in ways I never really thought relevant or possible for me. Also, am grateful that he was able to put my less-than-flattering comments about C-SPAN behind us.
Back to "Washington Journal": chances are that you're not familiar with the show because, hello? It's C-SPAN and most people don't really watch C-SPAN on Saturday morning at 7 am (or, really, at any other time of day, unless they are Monsieur Meow).
The show takes place in a bare-bones studio, whose only decoration is a large picture window featuring a gorgeous angle of the United States Capitol and which allows you to see the sunrise and the change of the seasons in DC (this is possibly my favorite part of the show). For periods of time –I believe they are half-hour segments– there is only a host sitting comfortably at a desk and reading newspaper headlines from around the country and sometimes from abroad, as long as they cover American politics. In zen-like motions, he guides us through highlighted passages, many of which relate to a topic of the day. This is possibly the cushiest job in the world: reading pre-highlighted newspapers. You don't even have to memorize a line! The stuff is all in front of you! How hard can it be?
Of course, the host does penance in other ways; you see, this is also a call-in show. I am pretty convinced that the hosts for this show are selected on their ability to hold a pretty damn good poker face for long periods of time. (Memo to self: Never invite a WJ host to a poker party.)
The host periodically repeats the phone numbers you can call if you would like to opine on the main topic of the day. There are three lines: one for Independents, one for Democrats and one for Republicans. It does not escape my notice that the line for Independents was a total afterthought. Behold:
(202) 737-0002 Democrats
(202) 737-0001 Republicans
(202) 628-0205 Independents
Whatever happened to 737-0003? Tsk, tsk.
At certain intervals, the host is joined by one of several guests –politicians, economists, policymakers and other notables– to help discuss a tailored topic fitting the abilities of the guest or the topic of the day (it varies). Just to give you an idea of what the topic of the day may be, today's is about the economic stimulus package planned in addition to the current stimulus package approved by congress. Civic life and the internet is the topic hosted by the guest currently, and he's fielding his share of very old people who are not quite sure that the Internets really have a role in politics. The guest nearly loses his composure on a couple of occasions– his mouth twitches, hand goes to his mouth. Solid gold.
And then we get the crazy people. Oh, the crazy people are the best thing ever: like the lady who just called and sang something about "poor Georgie, Obama will pardon you"; or the caller who refused to tackle the subject of the day until the host agreed that C-SPAN's assertion that it's paid for by the cable industry really truly means that C-SPAN is actually funded by cable subscribers, which means that we all pay for C-SPAN whether we like it or not. These are the best moments of the show: totally bizarro and unscripted and hilarious–especially when you look at the host and he's trying valiantly to keep his composure in the face of someone who's hijacked the phone line for five straight minutes to basically be heard about ANYTHING.
And finally, there is the rare glimpses of someone who seems to understand the question and deliver a thoughtful and thought-provoking comment. These are the moments that make the show truly worth watching: the moments that remind you why this is a country that thrives on discourse and on the freedom of speech.
But for the main part, "Washington Journal" is nothing but hours upon hours of delightful, unscripted mayhem, punctuated by the dignified calm of the host. It's that quiet, resigned desperation that makes this show an undiscovered hit– a rare gem that allows us to watch a broad swath of America undisturbed and unburdened by the shackles of thought.
Needless to say, I am a total convert, and I think you should be, too.
Happy (cold) Saturday!