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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The first series of TV Nation was witty, provocative and a damn good
watch. Louis Theroux visiting the KKK was a particular highlight, as
was Moore challenging American's CEO's to perform the menial tasks of
their workers in order to justify their salaries- only the CEO of Ford
took him up on the challenge, but I'm digressing. Another highlight was
the horrendous purchases of health insurance from AIDS patients by
money brokers who turned this into a morbid yet highly profitable
business. I have never seen anything as disturbing.
The second series seemed to lack punch. Crackers the Corporate Crime Fighting Chicken was ridiculous and damaged the show and the former KGB Officer just didn't make any sense at all.
It's worth a look for the first series- when Moore hadn't been reduced to agitprop and actually made valid arguments.
I remember this show coming to a city near my home town for TV Nation Day. Moore had lobbied to get a certain day declared TV Nation Day in the US to show how easy it is to buy congressmen. The bill WAS introduced, but not voted on in time. The small city of Fishkill, NY decided to declare that day TV Nation Day on their own and to celebrate the city and show held a parade down it's small main street followed by a celebration at a small mall with a showing of Roger & Me. I was at the parade and can vouch that the footage shown that night on TV was NOT indicative of the parade or the city of Fishkill at the time. The city HAD fallen on hard times with the bad economy, mostly IBM closing a local plant in a city that relied on IBM. However, it was NOT as bad as the show would have viewers believe. Michael Moore's contention was that the economy was horrible. So to back it up, they used creative camera angles to give the impression that Main Street was almost totally vacant. It was not. But by shooting several different angles of the same vacant stores, TV Nation made it look like almost every building was vacant. After seeing this first hand, I never took this show, or anything Michael Moore did seriously ever again. Who knows what other lies he has told.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I had the opportunity to re-watch some VHS recordings of this show on
NBC and Fox, and I'm amazed at how ahead-of-its time it really was.
I think we can easily regard this show as one of the ancestors of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, by the combining the four ingredients: humour, television, left-leaning populism, and a great research team.
It also seems to have laid groundwork for some top films of the last few years.
Some connections that impressed me:
Season 1, Episode 2, "Kuwait" segment, showing that Kuwait is not a free democracy as any Westerner would understand it, might as well have an Iraq follow-up, right? The results of US spreading "democracy" in Iraq seem considerably worse, actually.
Season 1, Episode 3, "Dr. Death" segments, foreshadow the HBO biopic You Don't Know Jack (2010).
Season 1, regular Episode 6, "Neighbors" segment, predating the Sept. 11 attacks, shows how oblivious and passive people can be when murderous neighbors move in.
Season 1, regular Episode 7, "Corporate Consultants" segment covers similar ground to Up In The Air (2009).
Season 2, Episode 1, "Crime Scene Cleanup" segment seems as if it has inspired Sunshine Cleaning (2008).
Season 2, Episode 4, "Aquarium" segment on towns trying to save themselves by building aquariums is ever timely, as even my own rust-belt city has recently proposed this idiocy to revitalize our economy. We can't even keep the grass alive, and they think we can keep exotic fish alive.
There's an unaired segment about Sam Phelps-Roper, which again foreshadows The Most Hated Family in America (2007).
I hope this series becomes available on DVD, in full (including unaired segments and the episode only broadcast overseas). VHS is just agonizing to watch these days.
Apparently, when "TV Nation" debuted, Michael Moore decided that since
we supposedly freed Kuwait in the Gulf War, to see how free they really
were. That was just a start to his quest to expose the radical right
for what it really was. The Republican seizure of power a few months
after the debut naturally gave Moore more (sorry for the pun) material
that he could have ever dreamed of.
Look, I know that the right wing likes to claim that Michael Moore lies about everything, but from what I can tell, they still claim that Saddam Hussein ordered the 9/11 attacks. They're just bitter that "Bowling for Columbine" won Best Documentary Feature and that "Fahrenheit 9/11" won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. As far as I'm concerned, Michael Moore speaks for world opinion.
Anyway, I totally recommend this TV show. Also read Michael Moore's books and Al Franken's books to learn more about these topics.
Even though he is now much more renowned for his movie docs("Roger and
Me","Bowling for Columbine" and the incendiary "Fahrenheit 9/11"),to
me,Michael Moore was probably at his best at the helm of this
sharp,dryly(perhaps bitterly)funny and relentless hour show which
lasted all of two years on NBC(1st season)and FOX(2nd season).
I say he was at the best on this show because it allowed him and a veritable crew of confederates(Janeane GArofolo,Jeff Stilson,Louis Theroux,Rusty Cundieff among others)to pierce through the veil of respectability that large corporations and conservative media barons and talking pieces(at the time,that would've been primarily the likes of Rush Limabugh,with probably Bob Grant,PAt Buchanan,Ken Hamblen and Oliver North somewhere behind him in terms of popularity)would happily put on and much of the popular,everyday so-called liberal media would gladly accept without hardly more than a low yelp of criticism(I mean,if Larry King is your best voice for opposition of conservative talk radio or TV,that's not saying much). The segments had more humor in them,a real sense of daring and a much more matter-of-fact sense of contrarism that seems to be missing in his now much more confrontational,direct polemics that he's known for now. Some more notable segments were profiling a gun club for Congressional wives,an attempt to try to sell off the infamous barge of garbage that circled the western hemisphere for much of the early nineties,an in-depth interview(And tour of his farm and shooting range)of Conservative rocker Ted Nugent and a mascot chicken that went to various corporations and awarded them for their cowardice in dealing with various malfeasance(naturally,there are several confrontations with first floor security that are priceless).
I suppose that a show like "TV NAtion" was probably WAY too subversive to be a network stalwart,hence its short lifespan. I only wish Mr. Moore had pressed this show onto cable,and didn't instead try to re-con-fig this into an even shorter-lived series called "The Awful Truth"(which I haven't seen,will need to out of curiosity,even though I've read at least one review say it wasn't as good as "Nation").Nevertheless,I truly appreciated this series,and when I ran across this again on a video tape I had made of it from years before(of course),it didn't take me long to realize how much I liked this show and its spirit. While I think as a political firebrand and troublemaker Moore had probably "jumped the shark",I still think he should keep on keeping' on,and another show like "TV Nation" would be just the thing to do it with.in my humble opinion.
When I first heard of this show, TV Nation I was just mildly intrigued. A
critic in TV Guide liked the show, said that it was funny and poignant at
the same time. Originally the show came on Tuesday nights, on NBC at 8:00.
I thought the show sounded kind of cool, and the critic's explanation of the
show went over my head, I was only 13. The show was taken off very quickly,
it was a summer show, and I heard there was some controversy surrounding it,
but that was all I heard, I never watched the show on NBC.
The show came back to FOX, in 1995, on Friday nights. One night I came back and watched it, I fell in love with the show. Michael Moore was instantly my hero, and still is to this day. Few TV shows stick with me like TV Nation. The show was very original, no show has ever set out to discuss so many of America's problems in such a way. It had everything in it, the OJ Simpson trial, the war in Yugoslavia, the KKK, Communism, it mocked almost everything.
Most importantly it showed us some truly screwed up things in our country. I loved the episode about Rosemont, Illinois, the city with virtually no crime, outside of Chicago, that has gates around it, so no one can get in. He had a security checkpoint outside so people could not get out, that was great. Then there was the communist eighteen wheeler, that he tried to take from Washington DC to New Orleans, and he came so close, until vandalism prevented it from going any further.
It is a shame that this show is not on anymore. Every story had something different, and in every show you came away thinking something very different. It has been quite along time since I have seen the show, and it has not been on air in quite along time, it did make it to comedy central in half hour segments, and I got to see some of the great things that I missed on the original show.
I think TV Nation Day, which is something Moore pushed for (in congress) in an episode of his show was a great idea. The show only appeared to get more creative and better as time went on. He came up with the TV Nation weather report, for his last episode, which was great, a few examples of his report were It is sunny in Los Angeles where TV Nation has just won an Emmy.'
The show was so good because it was the perfect blend of humor, satire and quite serious social commentary, where Moore was confrontational, but not so pushy as to get in someone's way. This was a great show. The following show the Awful Truth, which Moore produced after TV Nation was cancelled, lacked the wit and the edge of this one, and instead of being insightful it just came across as bitter. And to think of some of the correspondents on this show, Janeane Garofalo, Jonathon Katz, Steven Wright, Rusty Cundieff from Fear of a Black Hat and so on.
This show definitely bit the hand that fed it. When it was on both FOX and NBC this show went after a lot of corporate bosses, establishment figures and conservative icons. Many of these people were close to both NBC and especially Rupert Murdoch's FOX. This is great stuff, I will not forget this brilliant show anytime soon. Long live Michael Moore!!!!!
Michael Moore is one of the funniest guys I've ever seen. One can't help
but love his style, even while disagreeing with what he has to say. As a
stanch conservative, I find it amazing that such a liberal person and I
could have so much in common.
TV Nation was one of my favorite shows for its brief lifespan. I especially enjoyed the episode where they lobbied for TV Nation day and the one where he visited Clinton's home town.
To Moore nothing is sacred, not even the leaders of his own political party and for this, more than anything else, I can admire him. He reminds us that life is no fun if we take things too seriously.
That's about all one can say for this twice-failed TV series which had talent behind it but unfortunately most of the talent had nothing to do with the creator, Michael Moore. He is notorious for his hypocrisy on the "working man" (few if any walked away from this show saying that it was a good "working experience") and all in all, a one-trick pony who has since fallen deeply, deeply in love with himself and made some of the most insensitive remarks about 9/11 on record. An entertaining show, yes, but only because of the real talent involved (I'm thinking Janeane Garofalo and a few others). C
I saw some of the early episodes of TV Nation and thought at first it was
really funny, but it got old quick. Some of the pranks, such as banging a
dumpster at midnight outside the home of the guy who made dumpsters, just
let him know how the rest of us feel, are more mean spirited and juvenile
One thing that always stuck in my mind was an episode right after the 1994 elections when Congress changed hands. Moore was making remarks like people were tired of politics and America was a place where people wanted to shoot their guns and be left alone, with footage of him at a trap shoot, only later it I found out Moore is extremely pro-gun control--but then if you want to appear to be a crusader for the working man I guess you have to pretend a lot of things.
Moore seems to have based his entire career on knowing that businessmen and professionals on camera are going to try to politely circumvent controversial issues, and pushing it as far as he could get. I really wonder how Moore would feel if someone did a "Roger and Me" on him and how he would feel being on the spot--but wait a minute that did happen and he wasn't too happy about it.
This is a news/magazine shoe- there is no doubt of that. But instead of other shows like Dateline and 20/20, this show focuses on finding people and trying to find out why they did this or that. And who better to lead the pack than the king of the downsized worker and down on there luck person- Michael Moore. He brings to the small screen a lot of funny and smart stuff that was also seen on the big one in Roger and me. The only difference being that this time It's on weekly (not anymore actually, It's been replaced by The Awful Truth, which isn't the worst). Very smart and funny, and of course the show draws sympathy. A+
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