MSNBC hasn't exactly been killing it in the ratings department. Its last big bet — putting Chris Hayes in its 8 p.m. primetime slot — hasn't exactly panned out, with viewers hesitant to watch a man The New Yorker likened to a "smart and eager grad student."
Enter Alec Baldwin and his new show on MSNBC, which premieres at 10 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 11. Like his 30 Rock character Jack Donaghy, Baldwin behaves like a brash, almost cartoonishly confident man who isn't afraid to lash out at his opponents. But unlike his former TV character, he is a die-hard liberal.
So perhaps it's no surprise that his response to a recent segment on MSNBC's Morning Joe was anything but sanguine. The bit features his future colleague, Joe Scarborough, teaming up with Weekly Standard editor William Kristol to attack veteran journalist Carl Bernstein for accusing the GOP of demagoguery during the government shutdown.
Baldwin, who was reportedly asked to "tone down his famously vitriolic Twitter feed" by MSNBC President Phil Griffin, decided to share his opinion in 140-character outbursts.
1- there is, perhaps, nothing more offensive than watching the out of touch, sanctimonious William Kristol smirk his way through MORNING JOE— ABFoundation (@ABFalecbaldwin) October 2, 2013
2- talking about the govt shutdown. Kristol wants to write it off w a C'est la guerre insouciance. More blatantly out of touch white men— ABFoundation (@ABFalecbaldwin) October 2, 2013
3- minimizing everyone else's suffering. Carl Bernstein schools both Kristol and Joe S w the appropriate blend of history, policy, humanism.— ABFoundation (@ABFalecbaldwin) October 2, 2013
4-and what's with Scarborough, barking at his guests in that Hannity-esque Catholic school gym teacher style?— ABFoundation (@ABFalecbaldwin) October 2, 2013
15 minutes of Bernstein's perspectives on Washington are worth more than a month of Morning Joe. A year of Kristol— ABFoundation (@ABFalecbaldwin) October 2, 2013
Keep in mind, this comes a day after the first promo for his show, Up Late with Alec Baldwin, hit the airwaves. The ad took a tongue-in-cheek approach to Baldwin's reputation, calling him a man known for "keeping his emotions in check" who will provide "a soothing voice for these troubled times."
Obviously, MSNBC knows what it's getting. Despite canning its last controversial host, Keith Olbermann, in 2011, the network has to be aware that Baldwin will occasionally create some controversy.
Baldwin himself claimed that his show would be nothing like MSNBC's other flagship programs, The Rachel Maddow Show and All In with Chris Hayes, telling the Hollywood Reporter, "I don't want to get a bunch of wonks together and just wonk-ify some issue." Instead, he said, he wanted people who were "exciting, fizzy, dynamic."
As Salon's Daniel D'Addario notes, Baldwin "riles up the blood" and is "closer to Bill O'Reilly, in rhetorical style, than any liberal on MSNBC."
The fact that The O'Reilly Factor has long been the highest-rated cable news show on television explains why MSNBC might let Baldwin get away with attacking his colleagues on Twitter — at least for a while.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The mystery behind China's aggressive push into space
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- Yes, Republicans can impeach President Obama
- What religious traditionalists can teach us about sex
- The 5 best and worst states for a well-lived life
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Why Texas' abortion rates aren't falling as quickly as everyone expected
- Why all drugs should be legal. (Yes, even heroin.)
- The 6 best low-cost smartphones
- 7 ideas from ancient thinkers that will improve your modern life
Subscribe to the Week