D.L. Hughley proves CNN should focus on news reporting
And, unfortunately, the Saturday debut of comic D.L. Hughley's new CNN comedy show, D.L. Hughley Breaks the News, fell a little close to the latter mode too often for my comfort.
Hughley has always seemed a comic searching for a vibe, anyway. Comfortable enough with Hollywood to score an ABC sitcom and a supporting role in NBC's Studio 60, but street enough to host BET's Comic View, he has also seemed a bit removed from either setting -- a little too raw for prime time and a little too refined for the street.
Saturday's debut of his new comedy show for CNN -- itself an odd concept -- revealed Hughley in yet another element where he doesn't quite fit.
Leave aside the fact that his Saturday debut was filled with jokes that never quite landed right -- portraying Freddie Mac as a garish pimp when the GOP has blamed the country's entire financial meltdown on poor folks who got Freddie Mac loans? Really?
Breaking the News' biggest problem, especially in its first half, was that it all felt too hard. David Alan Grier's black-focused news satire Chocolate News works because Grier is a funny actor who can sell anything. He will play any role for maximum laughs without hesitation -- whether he's embodying an X-rated rapper making a No Child Left Behind video or Maya Angelou regurgitating a nonsensical rhyme about Barack Obama.
But worse than Hughley's off-balance jokes was the effort it all took. Wide as he smiled, you saw this guy was working way too hard; and it's hard to laugh when you sense that, behind the comic's eyes, he's not sold on the material, either. Here's D.L.'s take on something I've written about before -- the history of the black president in film.
None of this even touches on some critics' biggest complaint about Hughley's show -- that a news network has no business putting on a comedy program in the first place (yeah, you could argue Glenn Beck and Nancy Grace did it first, but that's just snide). It seems CNN is acknowledging what many critic have already said -- that the satire of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report can get to the truth of some news reports better than traditional reporting.
As I had to remind a Fox News publicist who called me offering a raft of quotes from CNN head Jon Klein about the importance of news, Fox News Channel tried its own hand at something like this -- The 1/2 Hour News Hour -- last year. Remember the days when cable TV news channels focused mostly on reporting the news?
And is it good or bad for CNN that this comedy show actually broke news Saturday when former Bush press secretary Scott McClellan endorsed Democrat Barack Obama on Hughley's show?