For a workout, try an hour of Hardball
PeteSchulberg / On Media
I'm mentally spent. Having just watched an hour straight of 'Hardball,' starring Chris Matthews, TV's foremost motormouth, my brain has downshifted to nap mode and my ears are still ringing.
There's no one, with or without a microphone, who can talk faster and louder Ñ and surely no one else who can squeeze in three or four interruptions while some poor interviewee is trying to spit out a single sentence.
Now, Matthews Ñ or as he would say, Matthews Ñ is in the news himself for blasting the already beleaguered Ted Koppel for 'mailing it in' and arguing, 'If the show ('Nightline') is so good, why doesn't he show up?'
Matthews also made the point that 'we in the cable business have overtaken ('Nightline'). I'm already rerun twice before Koppel's got his act together.'
Matthews later apologized to Koppel, but you know what? He's right on.
In my book, Ted Koppel is king, and 'Nightline' is an all-time favorite. But the early evening and prime-time cable interview programs have passed that 11:35 p.m. time slot by.
'Hardball,' which is broadcast at 6 p.m. and repeats at 11 on
CNBC, has become one of the best of the bunch thanks to Matthews, whose tombstone probably will read: 'He kept it moving.'
I used to despise the guy, who came to television after working as a Washington, D.C., bureau chief for the San Francisco Examiner and, before that, as an aide to former House Speaker Tip O'Neill. But with time and the help of my remote's 'mute' button, I've become a 'Hardball' fan, even if it means risking a punctured eardrum.
No one else in television can cover as much ground in such a short time while still making you feel as if you've learned something.
Part of this, granted, is because Matthews can fit 4,000 or 5,000 words into what seems like the space of a few seconds. But much of it is because he weaves in a drumbeat of tough and relevant questions for his varied guests.
Tim Russert and Bill O'Reilly can bring the heat, too, but Matthews is already in the dugout ready to grab a bat before Russert and O'Reilly have retired the side.
Matthews can segue from Yasser Arafat to Halle Berry to campaign finance reform to airport security in the time it takes Larry King to say, 'Buffalo, New York Ñ Hello.'
When one considers that Matthews has a nonbroadcast background, it's impressive that he can carry the show with such high energy for an entire hour. His interviewing technique isn't really a 'technique' Ñ it's more like your dog snapping at a Milk-Bone.
But Matthews is smart and gives the impression that, like Russert, he's done his homework and knows his stuff.
Some advice, though Ñ you might want to tape 'Hardball' and play it back at slow speed. Oh, and keep the volume low.