Alec Baldwin’s New MSNBC Show Kinda Sucks

Alec Baldwin's New MSNBC Show Kinda Sucks

Alec Baldwin’s New MSNBC Show Kinda Sucks

The new MSNBC show hosted by Alec Baldwin really sucks.

It’s one thing to mold oneself as a mysterious diner dweller, the type of husky-voiced lothario that stays up late drinking coffee, gesticulating with opinion and verve, into the wee hours of the morn. It’s entirely another to be highly successful and wealthy actor Alec Baldwin sitting on a television set made up to look like a late-night diner, talking half in liberal opinion whilst the other half talks earnestly about acting and, as if in giant air quotes themselves, “what makes people tick.”

Baldwin’s show is a curious watch, with the host almost playing it as if Charlie Rose was a beatnik, a loose, self-aware version of a talk show host — as if someone had described Dick Cavett only from memory. It’s not so much “bad” as it is (David) Lynch-ian in its obsession with dialogue, jazzy interludes and diners; someone somewhere on the production crew (maybe Baldwin, maybe a producer) seems to think it’s a great idea to set the show in a fake diner. It gives the entire show an uneasy sheen, so while the dialogue is often candid, the surroundings are anything but. It’s a new idea, sure, the whole diner thing, but one that could be carried off a little better. Watching two dudes sit in a restaurant booth together is about as fun visually as it sounds.


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It’s no surprise that Baldwin is a professional in front of a camera, and for the most part it’s refreshing to see someone be themselves on camera; this is the show’s biggest asset. His voice totally lends itself to the format and in doing so it falls on just the right side of self-parody. The (in)famous gravel-voiced purr of his only seems to make the diner atmosphere feel more like sexy dancing girls in bikinis are going to start cavorting onto the set at any minute. The ghost of Sammy Davis Jr. seems to be waiting just off screen, ready to wisecrack at any minute. “That’s a great one, Alec. Real great one, baby!” But it never materializes.

Stuck somewhere between the jazzy soundtrack, the diner setting and Baldwin’s lounge-lizard delivery is a show that has yet to find who it really is. If you’d told me that the whole show was produced by recent NYU Film School graduates I would say huzzah and kudos to them, but the fact that it is on MSNBC — home of liberal smug if there ever was one — and produced by a team of professionals overseen by corporate sensibilities … then this makes no sense at all. It’s unsure if it’s trying to be some sort of front-of-book Playboy show or “Charlie Rose,” and in the process it’s coming across as a woefully self-serious “SNL” skit stretched far too long. Alec’s earnestness saves the show from tanking altogether: his interview with De Blasio is charming enough to make you forget they’re sitting in a jumped-up Johnny Rockets.


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The show can do better. Baldwin can do better. Even if he is a grumpy old liberal underneath it all, it’d be good to see that as opposed to … whatever “Up Late” is trying to be now.

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