If only Paddy Chayefsky had been alive see "Network" come true, or as close to it as the film has come.
Glenn Beck ended his Fox News Channel program Thursday, talking about the great work he and his viewers have done together and pledging to remain part of their lives as he graduates to a great new adventure. He also again threatened the so-called mainstream media presumably celebrating his departure by saying, "You will pray for the time when I was only the air for one hour every day."
Don't be so sure.
Beck had the extraordinary good timing to begin his Fox run the same week Barack Obama was inaugurated as president, emerging as a voice of right-wing paranoia at a moment when there was an extremely receptive ear to such wailing. In the process, he built a lucrative media empire, drew strong ratings and buoyed Fox's entire lineup.
Then his act began to tire, his words triggered a sponsor boycott and the FNC hierarchy apparently started to weary of his antics, perhaps concluding the benefits of his presence — mitigated by those factors — weren't worth all the attendant headaches. Beck's mix of race-baiting and apocalyptic alarmism grew tedious to all but his most committed loyalists.
As Salon's Alex Pareene put it, "Most of all, especially toward the end, it all got a bit … boring."
Thursday's wildly self-indulgent hour was certainly emblematic of that. Beck's farewell episode was a true tour de force of self-promotion, hype, self-absorption and grandiose rhetoric — dwarfing even Oprah Winfrey's goodbye by those measures.
Followed by a handheld camera at the outset, he opened with a gauzy video montage of his 2 1/2 years on Fox, including man-on-the-street testimonials about how wonderful Beck is. Talking about himself in his soothing "Aw shucks" manner, Beck was all over the place — offering a lengthy dissertation on his ratings success, directing people to his website, and insisting he was leaving FNC because his program had become "a movement" and thus outgrown puny old television.
"Now is the time to stand up!" Beck said, as if trying to rally his flock. "That's where I'm headed."
Tellingly, the sponsors were few and of the bottom-feeding variety, even at the end. Goldline finally chimed in 20 minutes into the episode.
Fox News will replace Beck's program with a panel show format titled "The Five," perhaps mindful of not immediately creating another monster even CEO Roger Ailes can't control. Either that, or maybe it's just a way to try out relatively unproven talent and see if there's another Beck hiding in plain sight and already on payroll. (Despite reports of bad blood between them, Beck thanked Ailes, as well as Rupert Murdoch and Bill O'Reilly.)
Beck was fond of introducing his show by saying "Hello America." But the truth is he was speaking to a small subset of a sprawling country, and mightily contributed to the toxic partisan divide and failure to entertain opposing viewpoints that will effectively prevent anyone from addressing the nation collectively in the future.
For that reason alone, goodbye, and good riddance, "Glenn Beck."