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Turns out Robert Mueller didn't make for compelling TV: He was neither a villain nor a hero

  • On Wednesday, Americans got the "inevitable TV adaptation" of The Mueller Report, says Jen Chaney. And what they saw was a dud. "Mueller, a man with whom many Americans are best acquainted in the form of Robert De Niro on Saturday Night Live, had already become a TV character of sorts before he spoke a single word during Wednesday’s hearings," says Chaney. "To many on the far right, he was the silver-haired witch hunter who wasted money trying to prove Donald Trump had committed criminal acts. To many on the far left, he was the potential savior who would prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Trump had tried to obstruct justice and engaged in potentially impeachable acts. As a television character, it turned out that Mueller was, not surprisingly, neither of these things. The former FBI director with a reputation for being a stickler for the rule of law may have been the protagonist of the limited series The Mueller Hearings, but he conducted himself more like a respectable side character. He was a Ken Cosgrove, not a Don Draper; a Samwell Tarly, not a Tyrion Lannister; the bland ex-boyfriend of Fleabag, not Fleabag or the Hot Priest....Mueller functioned as neither a villain nor a hero nor an anti-hero but as the impartial, third-person narrator of a story. Guess what? That was his job. He told us the information we already knew, assuming we’d been paying close enough attention to this story all along." Chaney adds: "Offering no opinion is the last thing we expect from television in 2019. Whether we’re watching true crime, scripted prestige fare, cable news, or, yes, a Congressional hearing, we expect opinions, and we expect drama. We definitely expect it from courtroom scenes. Congressional hearings are not, to be clear, courts of law, but the dynamics of the dialogue in those settings are similar. People turning on their televisions on Wednesday expecting the equivalent of Nicole Kidman cornering Meryl Streep on the stand were no doubt disappointed."


    • Even TV anchors were surprised by the halting, donnish presence of Mueller on their screens: "On cable news, the analysis at times bordered on theater criticism, and few pundits suggested that the day’s questioning had undermined the facts uncovered by Mr. Mueller in his encyclopedia-size report on Russian interference in the 2016 election," says Michael M. Grynbaum. "But the event on Wednesday, which pre-empted daytime programming on every national broadcast network, was by its nature made for TV. And for the pundits offering play-by-play commentary, it could be hard to separate assessments of Mr. Mueller’s performance from the criteria that Americans use to judge other players’ credibility in the soap opera of national politics."
    • Late-night hosts weigh in on Mueller's testimony: "He had the same look on his face that Billy Joel has when someone says, 'play 'Piano Man!'" said Seth Meyers, while Stephen Colbert slammed Mueller for not speaking in plain "America talk."

    TOPICS: Robert Mueller, CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, Late Night with Seth Meyers, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Cable News, Trump Presidency