Reza Aslan: 24 Hours Of CNN Viewing Could Prove Fatal – TCA

Watching 24 hours of CNN is likely to cause you to want to shoot yourself, Reza Aslan, host of Ovation’s new Rough Draft With Reza Aslan, said today, kicking off Winter TV Press Tour 2016, aka TCA.

On the other hand, the Iranian-American author and commentator also happily promised he will be “hard to avoid” on the TV news circuit during election season. “Those kinds of conversations are not very helpful,” he prattled on happily, endearing him to news program producers across the TV landscape. Pop culture is the only way to change people’s perception of other races, cultures and religions, he insisted, and TV storytelling is the “most democratic” form of pop culture. He’s waiting for the Muslim All In The Family, explaining he won’t feel part of the U.S. cultural fabric “until they start making fun of us on TV.”

“I’m waiting for the show that captures [Muslim culture] the way Fresh Off The Boat is doing with Asian Americans” or The Jeffersons did with the African American community way back in the day,  he said. “I put my trust in pop culture. You can watch 24 hours of CNN – you’d probably shoot yourself after, but, if you survived that, I can’t imagine you would have changed your mind on any topic.”

Once upon a time (March of 2015) CNN said it was developing a series that would star “internationally renowned author and scholar of religious studies” Aslan, described by the network as a “spiritual adventure series,”  based on a concept Aslan had been pitching for years to news networks.

To Aslan’s point The Jeffersons reference, that 70’s/80’s sitcom developer Norman Lear is Aslan’s first guest when his Ovation show debuts on February 28. At today’s TCA panel, Lear chimed in, as he has many times before, that this is the “golden age” of television. But Lear also said, as he has said in previous recent TCA appearances, his comedies could not exist on TV today because “the establishment leadership generally misunderstands the wise heart” of Americans. Joining Aslan’s condemnation of TV news, Lear said the “bumper sticker quality of news and discussion” does nothing to help viewers understand current events. “The American people don’t get what they earned by way of help and understanding in the context of what is going on in their world.”

When last we saw Lear at TCA, in August, for instance, it was to talk about his profile on PBS’s American Masters franchise, set to air in the fall.  Back then, Lear spoke optimistically of his reboot plans for sitcoms One Day At A Time and Good Times. But, back then he said, when pressed as he often is, as to why TV no longer favors his brand of loud topical comedy: “My guess is they are fully capable of doing it, they just don’t elect to, or the networks… don’t elect to… I love Modern Family, and it has a lot to say about a lot of situations, but it doesn’t talk about some of the things we dealt with.”



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