Most cable shows that feature "guest panels" are almost unwatchable, in my opinion. Guests are chosen for their combativeness, and the thought is that screaming and arguing are the only ways to make the shows interesting. With her guest hosting on MSNBC, Rachel Maddow is proving that the host sets the tone, and, in doing so, is showing that she is more qualified than David Gregory to be hosting that show.

Like most members of DKos, I am a big fan of Rachel Maddow. It has been fun to watch her move up through the ranks from after-hour radio host on Air America, to rising talent at MSNBC. Many here have said she deserves her own show right now. I was always a bit more circumspect, because the times I watched her host Countdown, I thought she was very good, but not quite ready to headline a full one-hour show.

I don't usually get to watch Road to the White House, but I caught it today. I can't remember if this was one day, or if Rachel has been the guest host all week. But one show was enough to prove to me that, at least in this type of format, Rachel is better than anyone at MSNBC. And she also confirmed my belief that the host sets the tone, and it is possible to have intelligent group discussions on cable news.

Everyone knows that most "discussion panels" on cable TV are chosen for their combativeness than for their knowledge--esp the conservatives. How many republican dopes do you see trotted out time after time, to do nothing but bloviate the daily talking points? They add no new insight, no perspective, no original content, yet there they are night after night to offer "balance". In truth, the producers of these shows, in their narrow groupthink, are convinced that the only way to keep an audience interest is to foster constant conflict. Maybe that works for some people, but not for me--it just drives me away.

On XM radio, I can listen to BBC World Service and their panel discussions are completely different. Coherent thoughts are expressed in complete sentences and everyone waits for the other to finish speaking. All sides express original ideas.

I watched something similar on Road to the White House today. Rachel sets the tone at a higher intellectual level and the others work to keep up. The panel members weren't any different- Eugene Robinson, Joan Walsh, Tony Blankley, some other guy I don't remember--but the tone certainly was. I could actually listen to Tony Blankley and Joan Walsh occasionally made sense--that's a miracle in itself!

For me today was like watching a backup quarterback replace an aging veteran and show the crowd what the future looks like. Unfortunately, I know Gregory isn't going anywhere right away, but Rachel is ready for prime time.

Originally posted to Azdak on Thu Aug 07, 2008 at 04:26 PM PDT.


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