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Ask A TV Critic: Eric Deggans

But day-to-day, you know, it's these gimmicky hidden-camera investigations; it's true-crime stories; it's BS social experiments and nonsensical trend stories -- most of it is not stuff of lasting value, and it's just getting worse. And that's the biggest disappointment; even 60 Minutes is to the point where a small percentage of the stuff they do is of that ilk, and it really disappoints me. I mean, I think Simon Cowell is a compelling guy, but I really don't think the 60 Minutes profile they did of him was well done.

Sars: I actually saw that -- it's, like, the one episode of 60 Minutes I've seen in the last year, actually, and only because it was cutting into Amazing Race.

Deggans: I could see doing Simon Cowell on 60 Minutes, but I think the report they did on him was not the level that you kind of expect from 60 Minutes, where they not only...when they used to do people like Johnny Carson, they would kind of get in their face a little bit about things that had happened in their lives, and talk about things that might make them uncomfortable. When they did Vanessa Redgrave, they spent a lot of time talking about her activism for the Palestinians, and is she anti-Semitic -- you know, some really tough questions for her. And Simon Cowell is facing, you know, "Are you an asshole?" -- I mean, that's all part of his shtick, he's probably answered that question ten thousand times.

Sars: So is that the genre that you would strike down?

Deggans: It's not that I would strike it down, I'd just do it better. I just don't think they're doing it well. And they're not doing it well because they don't think people will watch it if they do it right. And they may be right, I don't know. But that, that bums me out tremendously.

Sars: Do you watch a lot of PBS?

Deggans: ...No.

Sars: Would you, if you had the time?

Deggans: No, probably not.

Sars: Same issue?

Deggans: I find a lot of what they do boring, to be honest. In theory I love MacNeil Lehrer, but watching him is like eating crackers. It's just so basic and it's so unadorned and it's so not flashy that -- it is television, you know? I mean, it should be visually appealing, and I don't think there's anything wrong with telling a story in a compelling way. Why does it have to be crackers or...Twinkies? That's what I don't get. To me, 60 Minutes at its height is a great example of compelling journalism...compelling storytelling techniques used to tell important stories. You look at Ed Bradley's boat-people story, you look at Harry Reasoner -- I think it was Harry Reasoner, was it Harry Reasoner? -- who did a profile of Miles Davis! I mean, it was great, he was great -- one of his questions was, "Do you hate white people?" It was great!

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Ask A TV Critic: Eric Deggans

But day-to-day, you know, it's these gimmicky hidden-camera investigations; it's true-crime stories; it's BS social experiments and nonsensical trend stories -- most of it is not stuff of lasting value, and it's just getting worse. And that's the biggest disappointment; even 60 Minutes is to the point where a small percentage of the stuff they do is of that ilk, and it really disappoints me. I mean, I think Simon Cowell is a compelling guy, but I really don't think the 60 Minutes profile they did of him was well done.

Sars: I actually saw that -- it's, like, the one episode of 60 Minutes I've seen in the last year, actually, and only because it was cutting into Amazing Race.

Deggans: I could see doing Simon Cowell on 60 Minutes, but I think the report they did on him was not the level that you kind of expect from 60 Minutes, where they not only...when they used to do people like Johnny Carson, they would kind of get in their face a little bit about things that had happened in their lives, and talk about things that might make them uncomfortable. When they did Vanessa Redgrave, they spent a lot of time talking about her activism for the Palestinians, and is she anti-Semitic -- you know, some really tough questions for her. And Simon Cowell is facing, you know, "Are you an asshole?" -- I mean, that's all part of his shtick, he's probably answered that question ten thousand times.

Sars: So is that the genre that you would strike down?

Deggans: It's not that I would strike it down, I'd just do it better. I just don't think they're doing it well. And they're not doing it well because they don't think people will watch it if they do it right. And they may be right, I don't know. But that, that bums me out tremendously.

Sars: Do you watch a lot of PBS?

Deggans: ...No.

Sars: Would you, if you had the time?

Deggans: No, probably not.

Sars: Same issue?

Deggans: I find a lot of what they do boring, to be honest. In theory I love MacNeil Lehrer, but watching him is like eating crackers. It's just so basic and it's so unadorned and it's so not flashy that -- it is television, you know? I mean, it should be visually appealing, and I don't think there's anything wrong with telling a story in a compelling way. Why does it have to be crackers or...Twinkies? That's what I don't get. To me, 60 Minutes at its height is a great example of compelling journalism...compelling storytelling techniques used to tell important stories. You look at Ed Bradley's boat-people story, you look at Harry Reasoner -- I think it was Harry Reasoner, was it Harry Reasoner? -- who did a profile of Miles Davis! I mean, it was great, he was great -- one of his questions was, "Do you hate white people?" It was great!

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