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Dissecting Melissa Harris-Perry’s MSNBC Show (What’s Gone Wrong?)

Dissecting Melissa Harris-Perry's MSNBC Show (What's Gone Wrong?)

Like all of you, I was very happy when it was announced that Tulane professor, writer, social and cultural critic and media pundit Melissa Harris-Perry, after paying her dues and showing she’s got the right stuff with her regular appearances on MSNBC (even acting as a substitute host on several shows), was getting her own morning weekend show on the network. Here was a smart, intelligent (and let’s be honest, very cute) sister getting a chance to dazzle everyone with her knowledge and intelligence, joining Tamron Hall’s daily afternoon show on the network.

And I have been faithfully watching her show every weekend. But I can’t lie when I say that I’ve been disappointed so far by what I’ve seen. Not that the show is bad or unwatchable, and that it won’t improve and get better as it goes along; Still I must confess that I find it a chore to get through.

I don’t understand it. When she was on MSNBC as a pundit giving her views, she was charismatic, sharp and very telegenic. She instinctively knew how to play to the camera. But now, with two hours to fill on Saturday and Sunday mornings, I find her… well… dull.

Odd thing that; so what happened? From what I’ve seen so far, the show has four big problems:

MSNBC OR BET? – The show suffers at times from odd, awkward shifts in tone as if it can’t make up its mind what it wants to be. True, there are some shows can do that. Tamron Hall’s MSNBC program is a good example of a show that can do that. Switching from hard news to show biz gossip very smoothly. MH-P can’t.

There was that very clumsy bit a few weeks ago when at the end of the show, after dealing with heavy issues for two hours, MH-P literally let down her hair, revealed what a hard core “stan” of Beyonce she was, begged her to come on the show and started dancing as they faded to a commercial break..Yeah, I can hear you saying. She was trying to lighten the mood, but it came off as desperate and embarassing.

Then there was that eyebrow raising, lengthly segment two weeks on which she and her guests dicsussed the importantance of Nortorious B.I.G. (One of guests said he didn’t know what a metaphor was until he started listening to B.I.G. Guess he doesn’t read much). I’m sure that that might thave impressed some black folks into thinking: “Wow she’s not the stuck up bougie that we thought she was, but a real down sister”  But sorry. You want to have a discussion about B.I.G. go right ahead. But not in the middle of a serious news dissucssion show between segments on the GOP’s War on Women and Afghanistan. And if that make me a “stuck up bougie” in your eyes, that’s quite all right with me. I can still sleep nights.

I get the feeling that her prodcucers are telling her to “black it up” on the show and show people that she’s “with it” to get younger viewers.

IS THIS A CLASSROOM OR TV? – I find it fascinating that on her show she’s become somewhat stiff on camera, when she was previously much more lively as a guest on other MSNBC shows. Take for example the opening intoduction of her show. Other MSNBC shows like Martin Bashir’s or Lawrence O’Donnell’s alway start off with some smart ass funny one-liners and a cleverly edited montage of video clips of events of the day. MH-P starts off her show listing off topics to be discussed, as if she talking to a classroom full of students. She knows the game. Get animated, agreessive, in your face. This is TV, not Sociology 101 for Christ’s sake! Even though it’s a news show, it’s still entertainment.

DULL TOPICS – Well actually you can take any topic and make it interesting if you know how to do it. But too many times MH-P takes dull topics and makes them duller. Too much discussion of the minutia of certain topics which wear down the viewers with tedious facts and figures. Yes I know she’s a professor, but that doesn’t mean she has to be professorial. Getting back to my previous point – it’s TV, not a classroom.

DULL GUESTS –  This relates to my previous point about dealing with any topic as long as you make it interesting. But not only are the topics dull on MH-P’s show, she constantly makes it worse by getting dull guests to talk about them. Yes, they’re intelligent and very knowledgeable, but most of them have no snap or pizazz. They don’t know how to play to the TV camera. The reason you tend to see the same pundits over and over again on shows is because they know how to play to television. No matter if you agree or disagree with them, they’re interesting, opinionated, energetic and know how to shape and phrase ideas and facts into quotable sound bites. Like I said before, even if it’s a news show, it’s still entertainment.

For example, yesterday on her show MH-P discussed the influence and impact of radio talk shows with some real talk show hosts. A very solid topic in light of all the recent controversy involving the Grand Kleagle of the KKK, aka Rush Limbaugh. However when you consider all the radio talk show hosts that are out there, she had three of the dullest talk shows hosts I’ve ever seen on her show. They all faded into the background and none of them said anything that was even remotely interesting or memorable. 

So as I said, the show is not terrible and there’s plently of room (though I’m not sure about plenty of time) to make the show better. And I don’t want the show to go away because it is important and valuable. And besides we sure don’t need another athletes’ wives reaity show on the air do we?

This Article is related to: Television


Comments

Rich Boone

this show make me want to puke every time I see it – re – runs of The Jackie Gleason Show would be more interesting then Melissa – just saying

Ponch

When she first started making appearances on other shows I knew she needed to have her own show and I THANK msnbc for giving her 2 hours each weekend morning. I NEVER miss it and record it faithfully !!

Elena

I feel I know her opinion even before she opens her mouth. She like many other hosts is a book we’ve read and the POV never varies.

cash

Yeah it sort of like watching Fox NFL Sunday, retarded. If you don't like don't watch it and then you have nothing to complain about.

jimmyjames

She's part retarded with a lisp. Please get her off the air. She's clueless.

brian

How embarrassing she is….what more can i say.

H

I don't know what MSNBC was thinking. She was a good guest, but once she got her show became a militant. A bouquet of opinions with maximum racial overtones. I understand that MSNBC wants to show they are a "diverse" force, but really?

And this lady is a professor at a major University? I am glad my kids are not in her class, the last thing I need is more radicalization and more hate speech. She is very smart, she knows how to use reverse discrimination without been overzealous.

Only in the United States she can get away with her" under the breath" reverse racism. But, I guess MSNBC is ok with that.

Nolla Rolla

She is desperate and embarrassing. She conveys her opinions as facts. What a joke! I wonder how many times she post comments here disguised as "viewers". Maybe she thinks children should belong to the community because she doesn't raise her own daughter. Don't get me started on public education when her own kid goes to private school. A fake and a liar…

Lawrence P. Rockwood, PhD

Dear Melissa
Yesterday on your show, The Melissa Harris-Perry Show, on a segment called “Are You a Good Ally”
You used the example of Viola Liuzzo to document a good model of a civil rights “ally” (a civil rights activist who is not African American).
“Viola Fauver Gregg Liuzzo (April 11, 1925 – March 25, 1965) was a Unitarian Universalist civil rights activist from Michigan, who was murdered by Ku Klux Klan members after the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches in Alabama. One of the Klansmen in the car from which the shots were fired was a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) informant.[1][2].”
You and your guests described an “ally” as an activist who after “meditating on white privilege” knows their place by remaining a mere auxiliary, facilitator, or adjunct of the movement. Someone who knows their place.
Milissa it is you, not Viola Liuzzo, who is a second class civil rights activist. You have spent your life as a privileged tenured professor in one of the most exploitive industries of workers in history. Yes, Viola gave her life for someone outside her tribe, her race, or her family. That makes her more of a human being, not less, than you are Melissa.
Your tribalistic criteria of who is and is not full members of the civil rights movement is pure racial essentialism and bigotry. The same is true of those who think they can judge real feminists by what is between someone's legs. They are also bigots.
Mellissa, you do not have the civil rights credentials found in the cold tip of Viola’s fingernail and you never will. The only difference between you and the KKK bigots who murdered her is one of degree.

Sigh

…. Why is the first sentence like an entire paragraph?

rich polson

Sergio, gawd, finally, someone who writes what I am feeling. Every point you outlined rang crystal clear in my brain. Yeah, weird energy most definitely. BUT. BUT…..does her lisp come and go????…..is she having her braces adjusted every other day? I swear, it comes and goes. just me?

caligirl

hmm…maybe this article was written back when her show first started?? otherwise, i couldn't DISAGREE more! dr. harris perry is hitting the hard topics (who else in corporate media is talking about mass incarceration–would love for her to get either michelle alexander or angela davis or both on the panel)??? poverty? her show is a breath of fresh air. she's smart, quick, and so are her guests. i wish they'd ALL (mhp included) stop punctuating their sentences with the word "right", though—ugh, so annoying!!! i love the show.

Nick Tierney

Sssssssuffering Sssssuccotash!!

liberty mutual

The dude that wrote this article, can't even spell. This article is full of errors: typographical and grammatical.

No wonder MHP goes over his head. He's functionally retarded/

marew

Harris-Perry once said when she was a guest on an MSNBC show a while back that anyone who didn't like Michael Vick is a racist. I truly take issue with that! I do not like him for his murder and cruelty to animals as I do not like ANYONE capable of such behavior. I've taken in neglected/abused dogs for 40 years and never once asked the race of the perpetrator.
I see this woman as blithely excusing Vick's behavior because he is black. Before that I was a big admirer of hers but now I know better. There are so many wonderful, non-racist black reporters/commentators out there. I change the channel as soon as she comes on…

HG

There are a million talented well spoken African Americans that could have been given that spot. Toure, as well as a lot of others come to mind as being literate, professional and not developmentally challenged. She is an example of why republicans don’t take affirmative action seriously. Now seriously though have you seen anyone on Fox or CNN who has a noticeable lisp and acts so strange. I’ve even seen her slobbering on TV as she gets excited, this had me sick for a week seeing the slobber escape a grown woman’s mouth who is not developmentally challenged. MSNBC and their hiring policies are why liberals suck.

lm

her show is really boring to me . . . can't get through 15 min.

What

MHP and Chris Hayes show are the best shows on cable news. If you find most cable news opinion shows to be too theatrical with little substance, and if you find public broadcasting personalities too dull and restrained, then these two shows are amazing. I would liken them to the livelier round table discussion shows you find in other countries on their public broadcasters. Where their is passionate debate with little hyperbole. NPR and PBS are so afraid of being accused of being partisan that they always restrain themselves when talking about issues and let their guests get away with idiotic talking points and do not press them or challenge them.

Anyways my two cents. I used to watch Chris Hayes show religiously but now I find I have to watch MHP first. I like her insight, her viewpoint, and the fact that she is so fair and diplomatic and eager to discuss and yet the right like to paint her as some sort of angry black woman stereotype (which she isn't at all) I find it educational and enlightening.

jabberjustice

Come one are your complaints valid???? I wonder if this is the case of just another black man hating on a black woman. Really! How many shows had there been when you wrote this? I, for one, along with many others love the show. It's both news/ and a classroom. Get with it dude!

Cary Birdsall

I hope that by now you have changed your mind about MHP. This show is anything but dull, and while it does sometimes feel like I'm in school, Harris-Perry is a professor I would sign up for. Further, she brings an emotional level to the news of the day that I find nowhere else – not an Ed Show thing, but an emotional connection to the humanity of what goes on. Her guests are diverse and interesting, and she handles the flow of ideas with deftness, fairness and effectiveness. I also appreciate the way she brings her personal life into the mix.

Nancy

Haha I see you comment a lot.. I guess you are proud of this lady mrs. Babara…. Well this show blows.. I don't think it would be on air for too long!

Barbara

Fantastic show……Thank you Melissa Harris-Perry and NBC

Sanity has returned.

Maria

I watched this show one time.. It was horrible!! She was just talking about how we can call black people black and things like that.. I think she is going more toward racism than real news.. Black white chinese Spanish who cares!!.. All the bad things already happened lkng long time ago!! people take advantages of this topics like I think this lady is doing.. If she is there to host a news program just talk about the news and that's it!

Donald

I have watched her show, and don't share your sentiment or criticism whatsoever. In reading your article I find myself wondering where is this coming from. You seem to have a resentment of some sort. Her show is inciteful and informative. Her presence in show format is a breath of fresh air. Finally an intelligent black woman with her own show and deserving I might add. There are other journalist one can spend ink criticising, don't see why you waste your time on Melissa Harris-Perry.

Tome

Alex Wagner is the worst show ever. Mhp just needs to stop with all those GOP guest and no push back on their talking points.

Tai

I couldn't disagree more with the core of your analysis. I agree that the show is trying to find the right balance of hard hitting content and more light hearted content. I don't she comes off as stiff or her guest are boring. She has single-handedly introduced many viewers to young scholars like Dorian Warren.

mantan

i've never watched the show but having read everyone's comments about the show it seems that it's pretty good and i'm going to make sure to dvr it from now on.

i generally don't like to watch cable news shows because they're all so biased and prefer to read about the news but i'll give melissa a chance, thanks.

pecola

During the "Inside the White House" series on NBC a few years back, Brian Williams asked President Obama if he watched cable news and he said he didn't. Everyone's got their role to play, he said, and " I don’t feel as if I’m learning anything from the debate." That's generally how I feel about cable news…except for the hours I spend watching Chris Hayes and Melissa Harris-Perry, weekends on MSNBC. For those four hours, I'm guaranteed to learn something that I didn't know when my morning started.

I'm not sure what your definition of bougie is but I think political shows that talk about the unemployed, the disenfranchised, immigrants, gays and lesbians, etc. without having those voices represented on their panels are the bougie ones. That kind of elitism has no place on MHP's show–she brings them all to the table to speak for themselves, rather than to just be spoken about…and I'm a better person for having heard that discussion.

biwtican

i think the issue is that if you ain't crazy about Solidad on CNN you won't understand why they put this woman on MSNBC. It's just copycat TV. It's how america deals with black women. leana horne begats dorthy dandridge, begats jane kennedy,begats vannesa williams, then whitney,paula,rihanna,beyonce,zoa, etc. caution marrying a blackman will severely damage your chances of success.

starr

you most certainly DON'T speak for every viewer of the MHP show because I LOVE that she is NOT just like the others, the ones i DON'T watch. i saw the show on B.I.G. and i enjoyed it very much. i am one who recognizes his picture but have no idea what his music sounds like or if i do know a song, i DON'T know it's him!!! LOL. the reason i love her show is because she covers topics i am interested in but i don't see them discussed as anything except the tired usual "headline's flava" of the day. the only two places in media that i've heard discuss Finding Our Own (AA missing people) is tom joyner on radio and MPH on msnbc. of course that's not surprising to me at all considering AA's aren't worthy of coverage when their families are dealing with pain because that is a "human condition". and AA's as a rule are not privy to having the regular media acknowledge—even military AA's living or killed serving their country!! MHP appears to mirror my complete amazement and distrust at one side of so called established white society of males blaming rappers for all of the ills of the nation AND the other side having the knowledge and ability to publically correct an AA male in the florida senate on the lyrics of a jay z song. to provide this particular conundrum and example of the utter hypocrisy in the blame game of america, is well worth my continued viewership.

love

OK, I love the MHP show (as does almost everyone in my social media circle- I can't get through a Saturday without seeing MULTIPLE clips of her show circled around twitter and Facebook). I don't know about everyone else here, but my friends and I move between discussions of Biggie and the minutia GOP primaries and whatever else we feel like all the time! And it feels refreshing to see other young, political, people of color doing the same on my tv for once. And the comments about not having interesting guests? Sergio, perhaps it's time to read other things than media posts- because MHP has been bringing serious heavy hitters from feminist circles (Joan Morgan, Margaret Cho) and the academy (E. Leon White, etc) and mixing it with actual activists and folks on the street.

I will admit, her show is still clunky in parts and her stiffness on camera is a problem. But there is a lot of smart commentary going on there. It's a shame if you can't sit still long enough to take in a smart, multifaceted, news show for once. It's not going to be mindless entertainment, you have to watch MHP ready to pay attention and engage. But the same can be said for some of the greatest shows of the century so far (The Wire comes to mind).

To make this a break down of "bougie" vs. "real down" blackness conversation is, to me, an insult of the kind of complicated work that MHP is doing. In 2012, I think it's finally ok to admit, even in the public domain of television, that black folk are often simultaneously both. Dr. Harris-Perry and her peers are doing so with cutting edge intelligence and intensity.

Even is @Sergio is missing the boat- I hope that the rest of the readers of this post will not. Yes, she is a professor. Yes, her show is a classroom. But it is a classroom that I would never want to miss on a Saturday morning- and judging from her growing ratings, neither does anyone else.

CareyCarey

@ Sergio, I know I do not have to tell you this because you "get it". However, to those who seem to miss the most basic point about blogs, movies and entertainment in general, I submit what I consider to be the most poignant part of this piece. Your words—> "she constantly makes it worse by getting dull guests to talk about them. Yes, they're intelligent and very knowledgeable, but most of them have no snap or pizazz. They don't know how to play to the TV camera. The reason you tend to see the same pundits over and over again on shows is because they know how to play to television. No matter if you agree or disagree with them, they're interesting, opinionated, energetic and know how to shape and phrase ideas and facts into quotable sound bites. Like I said before, even if it's a news show, it's still entertainment" ~Sergio. YES_YES_YES! Now, in those words there's an analogy that speaks to you Sergio, and S&A in general. IMHO, you Sergio, are the most entertaining, energetic, fair, interesting and important link in this chain called S & A. Other guests and authors may be "intelligent and very knowledgeable, but most of them have no snap or pizazz", or they're preaching to a "particular" choir… and we all know the hook in "that" song. I hope people do not take that wrong, but some of the posts are just blah blah Sociology 101. So Sergio, in short, inspite of your alledged flaws and those who will never love you….. ( entrenched do or die cynics and boogie woozies) you are a welcomed and need asset of S & A.

Verite'

This post needed an editor…do better, S&A.

Jonathan

You stupid liberals, MSNBC SUCKS!

Fire Sergio!

Sergio and his ramblings….I can't!

Astra

I actually never found her to be particularly engaging as a guest host, so I did not really expect much for her show. But it sounds like she might need a few routine 'bits' or 'angles' like most of these other shows have. For me, it's not a problem to talk about minutia or from a nuanced perspective, but she has to own it, and really push it as the unique contribution that she makes to MSNBC — because it sounds like cute, lispy, professorial blackness is not sufficient.

Johnnie MD

I have yet to watch her show. Given your review and the comments that it has generated, I'm more compelled to check it out.

Jasmine

I'm sorry, you talk about being a "stuck up bougie," yet this article is full of spelling and grammatical errors. I could hardly get through this article due to the amount of mistakes made. I'm not sure if you were in a rush to meet a deadline, but this kind of reporting is just poor. Her show has been on for approximately one month. I'm sure she is working with her team to figure out what works and doesn't work. It takes time and mistakes. Tamron Hall, Anderson Cooper, Rachel Maddow, etc did not have amazing shows right away. Also, your attempt to make this an issues of "bougie" vs. "real down blacks" was disgusting. Melissa Harris Perry has never come across as being bougie or better than anyone else and your attempt to paint her in that light is unnecessary.

Erica B.

I really enjoy her show and I normally only watch the first hour. I just don't have the time to devote to two hours of tv watching on a Saturday and Sunday morning. I don't think the comparison to Tamron Hall is a fair assessment. Tamron has her show and she also does "The Today Show", where they effortlessly transition from hardcore news to pop culture. I'm willing to give MH-P a chance. Her show is still in its infancy and I have hope that she'll smooth out the rough edges.

Kai

I think she is great. I don't always get thru the whole show but it's clear that she is a very smart woman.

roberto

i LOVE her show and it dont find it DULL at all, and i like the fact that she can go from serious topics to others deemed less so, GREAT SHOW

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