Despite the temptation to give NBC News the benefit of the doubt, the net's Tim Russert memorial coverage officially “jumped the shark” some time between noon and 4 p.m. PST Wednesday, amid four more hours of time-filling blather.
Russert’s sudden death from a heart attack on Friday was an unexpected jolt to the system, and the network was to be forgiven indulging in a measure of on-air grief. At a certain point, however, even a modicum of recognition about relativity and propriety should have kicked in, as “Remembering Tim Russert” essentially blotted out coverage of anything else in the world — from flooding in the Midwest to the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
By doing so, MSNBC’s maudlin repetition of platitudes finally performed a genuine disservice to the late “Meet the Press” host’s memory by beginning to take on an unsavory aura of self-promotion. Inevitably in the painful process of padding out the hours, there were so many references to the “NBC family,” the network’s enduring commitment to his example, and parading by correspondents and contributors sharing personal memories to qualify as back-patting.
Perhaps foremost, though, where does this set the bar on future on-air obituaries? How many hours (and indeed, days) should be devoted to mourning other NBC talent, such as Tom Brokaw or Matt Lauer?
MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, as usual, sounded utterly oblivious to the network’s role in perpetuating the coverage — as if the marathon was somehow demanded by outsiders. Anchoring the coverage throughout the day, MSNBC’s Chris Jansing was especially irritating, and it fell to contributor Eugene Robinson to open his tribute to Russert with the smallest of nods to the overkill that had already taken place.
“It’s hard to talk about it without resorting to cliche,” he said.
Too true, as well as too little, and by then, much too late.