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Quick Hits

An Unconventional Guide to Convention Week TV

Jon Hein's TV picks — Week of August 17, 2020
  • Samantha Bee and Trevor Noah will be covering the DNC this week as only they can. (TBS/Comedy Central)
    Samantha Bee and Trevor Noah will be covering the DNC this week as only they can. (TBS/Comedy Central)

    Jon Hein knows TV. In the late 1990s, he coined the phrase "Jump the Shark" when he founded the site of the same name. Since then, he's written about television everywhere from The New York Times to TV Guide. In his column for Primetimer, he shares his thoughts on what's new and good on TV and the shows on his radar for the coming week.

    Politics has never been my thing.

    I double majored at the University of Michigan (Go Blue!) in communications and history. I wanted a career in media, but I took a ton of classes about older societies and the first 200 years of America. Political science — no thanks. Government history — sign me up!

    I care A LOT about this country, but the disingenuousness of politics really turns me off. Politics is all for show — and it shouldn't be. It's embarrassing. It's all style over substance which is truly a shame. Hamilton is an entertaining Broadway show, but trust me, it didn't play out that way in real life.

    I'm not going to tell you who should be in office and why you should vote. There are plenty of Facebook posts from your friends and family already checking that box.

    My job is to talk TV, something I actually know a thing or two about. The new offerings this week leave much to be desired, so I'm focusing on the Democratic National Convention (next week, the Republicans take their turn).

    All political conventions are a farce when it comes to TV coverage. We know who's running, and unless you want to see electors from the great state of "fill-in-the-blank" declare their love for a particular candidate, it's dreadfully boring.

    There are no real debates. There's no policy being broken down. The real stories are typically outside of the convention hall with passionate protestors bringing real issues to the forefront.

    COVID will switch things up for sure. No big crowds. No balloon drops. Just lot of remote speeches from around the country and way too much analysis from TV talking heads.

    So I won't be watching CNN, FOX News, MSNBC or any of the network news coverage. If I'm forced to check out these conventions, I'll need plenty of laughs. Thankfully, there are other channels providing plenty of both.


    The Daily Show (COMEDY CENTRAL)

    Jon Stewart pulled off the neat trick of making these political gatherings interesting even if you're not an electoral junkie. Sure he was there to mock the attendees and the process, but that was accompanied by a quest for knowledge and desire to inform.

    Trevor Noah has done an excellent job reframing a show that has already been reframed (i.e. Kilborn to Stewart). The Daily Show is expanding to five nights to cover both conventions as thoroughly as possible. This is its Super Bowl.

    Politicians recognize the value of coming off well on shows like these that appeal to younger voters, and as Comedy Central reinvents itself for Gen Z, it’s clear that The Daily Show is at the center of its plans.

    Full Frontal with Samantha Bee (TBS)

    Sam Bee cut her teeth at The Daily Show, and she has taken the laughs to another level during the first four seasons of her very own program. Her team pulls no punches analyzing many aspects of today's crazy world.

    Full Frontal won an Emmy for its "Not The White House Correspondents Dinner," so you know she'll do whatever it takes to make these conventions interesting. Her political stance is very clear, but she holds everyone accountable while making you laugh.

    Triumph The Insult Comic Dog (HULU)

    There's nothing officially scheduled yet, but here’s hoping the brilliantly funny Robert Smigel and the puppet on his hand will tackle these conventions and this election.

    I highly recommend Triumph's 2016 Election special on Hulu to get a sense of the craziness around our political world only four short years ago.

    Once you start down the Triumph rabbit hole (apologies to all canines), make sure you search for this insult comic dog's take on Star Wars, Hawaii and Bon Jovi concerts. You'll laugh until you cry.

    Schoolhouse Rock (DISNEY+)

    I grew up on this 1970’s ABC interstitial series, and the History Rock portion holds up pretty well these days. Ask anyone my age how the Constitution begins, and they'll sing (not say) The Preamble.

    This throwback animation takes you through our entire political process. It's all covered here — women's suffrage, manifest destiny, and of course, the saga of a lonely bill just sitting up on Capitol Hill.

    If there's quality TV that I'm missing, please let me know.

    Wear a mask. Stay healthy, cool and safe.

    Jon Hein is the creator of "Jump the Shark" and author of three books. Follow him @jonhein on Twitter.

    TOPICS: 2020 Presidential Election, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, Schoolhouse Rock!, Democratic National Committee, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog