Empty10-11 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 7
I get it. I get it. It's summer. Viewers in general, and ABC viewers in particular, don't care much for reruns. ABC wants to keep the lights on, but it doesn't want to run up a big electric bill. The other guys are serving up inexpensive, often tasteless, reality series and "let's-see-if-it-sticks" game shows. Why not do something on the cheap with the news division? Give them some exposure without much additional cost.
So along comes "i-Caught," which premiered Tuesday night, hosted by Bill Weir, co-anchor of the weekend edition of "Good Morning America." The show mostly takes some of the most talked-about video on the Internet (mostly from YouTube) and tells some of the backstory.
There's the clip of the young water buffalo that almost becomes dinner for lions, then a crocodile, before the herd comes to the rescue. Weir talks to the Texas tourist who shot it and the fellow tourist who put it on YouTube. Just for good measure, Weir even talks to National Geographic photographers who agree it was remarkable footage.
Later, after cheesy teases and graphics that would make "Access Hollywood" proud, Weir exposes the trend toward choreographed dances by bridal couples, the case of the sexy Obama Girl (who turns out to be a lingerie model hired to sing Barack Obama's praises) and the occasional use of the Internet by frustrated crime victim families.
One section of the show adopts the highly suspect "choose-your-news" approach, showing in detail one of the three videos posted on the show's Web site. In this case, an emergency highway landing of a small plane beat out a cat with two tongues and a floodwater rescue.
It's mostly innocuous and fluffy. And it would be perfectly harmless as well except that it adds to the popular notion that news is just another way of delivering entertainment. It's a mostly a losing battle, what with morning news shows becoming more like infomercials and primetime news magazines aping the style and content of "America's Most Wanted." Still, when yet another show from a news division looks as if it was inspired by "America's Funniest Home Videos," someone needs to say, "Enough already."
Weir has done enough meaty news stories to establish credibility as a thoughtful journalist. If he and the news division need to get involved with freestyle dancing videos, they should approach it from a different angle. What are the economics of this new phenomenon? What are the cultural implications?
Granted, if you watch carefully enough, there are moments that suggest some thought was given to justifying news division participation. A futurist gets a few seconds to offer perspective. An FBI agent cautions about the danger of do-it-yourself crime solving. But this represents such a minute part of the program, it appears almost an afterthought.
The show is scheduled for five more episodes, just enough to get to the start of the real season, when the pros in the entertainment division can resume control over network entertainment.
An ABC News production
Executive producer: David Sloan
Director: George Paul
Creative director: Carlos El Asmar
Host: Bill Weir