Chris Hayes goes ‘All In’ for new show

Posted April 3, 2013


At 8 p.m. Monday night, Chris Hayes, formerly of MSNBC’s “Up” – scheduled unfortunately early on Saturday mornings – debuted his new prime-time weeknight show (the unfortunately named) “All In.” Somebody should have checked with Paula Broadwell about the rights to that.

Hayes and “All In” are replacing Ed Schultz and his eponymous show, which are moving to a Saturday spot. “Up” will be taken over by writer Steve Kornacki.

At 34, Hayes is the youngest prime-time anchor on any of the major cable news networks. He was graduated from Brown with a B.A. in philosophy and started his career as a print journalist, eventually winding up at “The Nation,” where he remains an editor at large.

In addition to hosting his own show, Hayes has been a frequent guest and guest host of Rachel Maddow, who occupies the 9 p.m. slot just after Hayes. During the on-air transition on Monday, Hayes wished Maddow a happy birthday, to which she replied that his successful primetime debut was a special treat, comparing the atmosphere at MSNBC to “opening day” (for those of you, like me, who know nothing about sports: that’s a baseball reference.)

Hayes and Maddow share not only some stylistic similarities in their presentation, but also some ideological similarities as well. Like Maddow, Hayes seems to be drifting (Maddow fans will catch the pun) toward a fully rational journalistic perspective: never assume that power and authority come with competence and benevolence.

In an interview last week with NPR’s Terry Gross, Hayes hinted at this, saying, “[i]t’s a radically unmooring feeling to recognize that people that you just figured kind of had it under control don’t have it under control and might be totally incompetent or completely corrupt or totally self-dealing.”

Hayes’s new show seems much like “Up” in the sense that it approaches the boundaries on mainstream debate postulated by Chomsky and Herman’s “propaganda model,” but it remains conscious of where those boundaries are and takes care not to overstep them. Hayes (again, like Maddow) is widely regarded as a “liberal” (in the American political sense of the word) but Hayes probably better fits the European connotations of that label.

The first two segments of “All In” covered the rupture of an 80-year old pipeline in Arkansas, bringing on Sen. Bernie Sanders and May Boeve, head of environmental activist group for the conversation. Sanders is known for his progressive views, but has managed to find a niche for himself in the mainstream debate. Boeve, on the other hand, is the kind of guest you’d find on few other news programs, especially during prime time – an outspoken critic of both big business and big government.

The second story was an even less typical prime time story: the Atlanta school system test-cheating scandal. Guests for the segments were Goldie Taylor, a contributor for an Atlanta MSNBC affiliate, Pedro Noguera from New York University, and Derrell Bradford, from Better Education for Kids. Hayes gives lengthy bios for his guests, but in my opinion, the more the audience knows about the sources’ affiliations and interests, the better.

On the whole, the show was no huge change from “Up” – namely, Hayes still provides some of the smartest political commentary on the boob tube. Credit to the “All In” production team – other than their choice of a title, they were on point with all the graphics and sound details, the research, and their booking of interesting guests. If the first go-around was any indication of what’s to come, we can expect Hayes and his crew to run a tight ship in the weeks (months? years?) to come.

Compared to “Up,” the only real differences were fewer guests and a less free-ranging discussion format, likely due to the constraints of a one-hour program vs. “Up’s” two hours. Hayes kept the guests tightly focused on the relevant issues and, as usual, served as a fair-minded and even-handed moderator. The “#Click3” segment is an audience-interactive five-minute tour of the Twitterverse that breaks through the “fourth wall” and serves as an interesting gimmick to engage viewers – at least it’s a little more innovative than a poll or a quiz.

Watching cable news may be the worst way to stay informed. Polls have shown that Fox news viewers generally knew less about current events than Jon Stewart’s audience and a recent study showed that MSNBC’s “news” coverage consists nearly entirely of opinion.

While Hayes is probably among the best hosts you’ll find on prime-time cable news, the bar on Monday night was set especially low. Filling in for CNN’s Anderson Cooper was the hypnotic and robotic Wolf Blitzer (Vulff Bleetzah auf Deutsch) and on Fox, Scott (“Bqhatevwr”) Brown was called up to fill in for fellow Bay Stater Bill O’Reilly.

According to Huff Post: “‘All In’ brought in 859,000 total viewers and 298,000 viewers in the coveted A25-54 demographic… “All In” was up +45 percent in the demo and down -4 percent in total viewers compared to Schultz’s Q1 average this time last year.”

The ratings are nothing spectacular, but put simply, Chris Hayes is brilliant at his job – and by that I mean that he is one of the few anchors I can watch without feeling the urge to put my foot through my television and scream “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

TITLE: “All In”

HOST: Chris Hayes


TIME: 8 p.m. EST, weeknights

GENRE: News/political commentary