Is Bill O’Reilly Passé?

A lot of ICN’s long winded blog posts, like this one is bound to be, usually start off with a simple thought or question and then grows exponentially in my head until my head can’t contain it anymore and it spills out through the keyboard on to the internet.

Case in point: A while back I thought to myself “When was the last time we had a really good Bill O’Reilly controversy?” The answer was I honestly couldn’t remember. It’s been that long. I suppose you could say O’Reilly’s appearance on The View that caused Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar to storm off could be considered somewhat controversial though I think the more controversial aspects of that incident were Behar and Goldberg’s behavior than O’Reilly’s. Going back before that incident I can’t off the top of my head think of a good old fashioned Bill O’Reilly controversy in quite a while. It seems on the surface like Bill O’Reilly isn’t capable of generating controversies like he used to. Or, put another way, it seems like on the surface that Bill O’Reilly has become passé. But is he really?

The O’Reilly Factor continues to be the most popular cable news primetime show going. Its viewership levels continue to easily trounce its 8pm competition. And there are no signs of that situation changing for the foreseeable future. Clearly, from a ratings standpoint, the Bill O’Reilly program and brand aren’t passé.

But from a headline grabbing standpoint, O’Reilly doesn’t generate the ink he used to five years ago. Five years ago you could count on an O’Reilly headline somewhere about once every two weeks. Now you’re lucky to get one a month except on a few sites that write headlines about anything remotely newsworthy regardless of whether they are really headline worthy. I certainly don’t write about him like I used to and I’ve noticed similar patterns on other sites. This seems to suggest a “passé disconnect” phenomenon at work where O’Reilly’s show continues to draw big numbers while drawing comparatively little ink on the TV sites. Why has this happened? Well the short answer is a combination of things are at work which have had the cumulative effect of undermining the necessity of an O’Reilly related post.

For starters, O’Reilly’s time on the air is working against him now. His tenure as the King of Cable News primetime has made him something of a media establishment member. The days of the insurrectionally tinged “O’Reilly revolution” have long played themselves out. With nearly 15 years on the air, 8 books, and previously a nationwide syndicated radio program to his name, it’s growing increasingly difficult to argue that, on paper, O’Reilly is not part of the media establishment now. When one becomes as established as O’Reilly has the newness factor rubs clean off. Media writers love to write about new and different things. It becomes increasingly harder to add to the narrative as time goes by because you start repeating yourself.

Another contributor to the drying up of the O’Reilly inkwell is Keith Olbermann. His years long war on all things O’Reilly has poisoned the well. Olbermann would highlight every single gaffe or fleeting controversy that could be tangentially linked to O’Reilly. If everything gets put under the microscope it starts blurring together and eventually it reaches a point where it takes on the appearance of background noise. Oh…look Olbermann is railing about O’Reilly jaywalking. Zzzzzz. Well it’s not quite that bad but you get the point. Had Olbermann been a lot more picky about when to take on O’Reilly it would be a lot easier to get worked up over the latest “O’Reilly controversy”. Now, media writers tend to shrug their shoulders and say, “Eh…it’s O’Reilly being O’Reilly. Not worth the ink.” O’Reilly has become something of a caricature of himself to the writers, thanks in no small part to Olbermann. Olbermann should look long and hard at this because what happened to O’Reilly could eventually happen to him and he may eventually see his ink start drying up.

A third major contributor to the lack of O’Reilly media ink is the arrival of Glenn Beck to FNC. Beck and his antics have made O’Reilly’s shtick look passé by comparison. Beck took the focus off O’Reilly because Beck has more rage in his pinky finger than O’Reilly does in his entire body. Now the once big audacious O’Reilly controversies were being routinely dwarfed and rendered irrelevant by Beck’s even larger, more audacious controversies. If you’re a media writer and you have to choose between writing about Beck or O’Reilly, you’re going to write about Beck almost every time. Beck is gone from FNC now but the mark he left and the bar he raised is permanent. What used to pass for a controversy pre-Beck, doesn’t pass muster today.

And that didn’t impact just O’Reilly. It impacted everyone. Look at the increased hyperbolic rhetoric coming out of MSNBC these days. Ed Schultz says the GOP “wants to see you dead”. Mark Halperin calls the President “something of a dick”. To get noticed on cable news you have to be really outrageous now. Thanks Glenn.

O’Reilly will continue to be a force on cable news for as long as he wants to do it. But his days of regularly getting banner headlines are over. Whether that really amounts to being passé or not is hard to quantify because it depends on where you are in the ideological spectrum. For his most ardent fans and most vocal critics O’Reilly will never be considered passé. But for those who fall outside those polarized groups, O’Reilly just isn’t as interesting as he used to be. Those people have become acclimated to O’Reilly. It’s like being a drug addict. You have to keep getting a stronger and stronger fix to stay high. O’Reilly hasn’t kept up with the times of modern cable news rhetoric warfare as some of his counterparts have. So, in that sense, it could be argued that Bill O’Reilly really is passé.


42 Responses to “Is Bill O’Reilly Passé?”

  1. Good post. Love it when thoughts frantically try to escape the mind and make their exit through the fingers as words on a page.

    Maybe part of it is O’Reilly’s own desire to tone it down. He buddied-up with Beck to do the tours for some reason and I doubt FNC made him do it. Don’t know how long he wants to keep at it, but the greying of his hair is near complete and he might now be thinking that his career is ripe for cultivating how his tenure as the king of cable will be remembered.

  2. BOR doesn’t have any guests on anymore. His show is now a series of segments with regular FNC folks. It is almost like “Family Feud.” BOR as Richard Dawson (sans kissing) solicits answers from opposing sides and then tells them which is correct. “Survey says? Alan Colmes is a pinhead.” How much controversy could there be in that format?

    It is not the show that it was five years ago. BOR no longer has adversarial segments with non FNC guests.

  3. “BOR doesn’t have any guests on anymore.”
    “BOR no longer has adversarial segments with non FNC guests.”

    In just this month, before he left for vacation: Dennis Kucinich, Ann Coulter, Marc Lamont Hill, Erica Payne…

    Yep, no guests.

  4. lonestar77 Says:

    “For his most ardent fans and most vocal critics O’Reilly will never be considered passé. But for those who fall outside those polarized groups, O’Reilly just isn’t as interesting as he used to be.”

    I’m not really sure what that means. Interesting how? He doesn’t need to invent faux controversies like the folks at MSNBC do because he knows he can be successful by hosting a solid program. I think the reason he obliterates (ratings wise) the rest of the competition is simply because he has the best, most informative show on cable news and in all of news (IMO). His is the only show that I watch every night.

  5. No, he’s not as interesting as he used to be. He has the same problem KO developed: Predictability. The show may be good comfort for regular viewers, but it doesn’t have any spark. Throw up the subject titles; write the show in your head; you’ll rarely be far off. Ann Coulter! Alan Colmes! Marc Lamont Hill! Body language! Two blonde chicks talking about crime! Name and town name and town! Eh.

  6. -Predictability-

    Absolutely, but maybe that’s by design. He’s found the formula for himself that works and the “king of cable news” is taking a page from the “king of late night”, Johnny Carson. Or, for terence’s benefit, he’s taking a page from Catholic Mass – there’s a reason the highly-scripted and oft-repetitive performances are the ones that draw the regular crowds.

  7. lonestar77 Says:

    “No, he’s not as interesting as he used to be. He has the same problem KO developed: Predictability.”

    I disagree. But, if you believe that, what in the world do you think is more interesting & less predictable than BOR’s show? You’re basically describing every show on cable news. All the CNN shows have the same guests debating each other. All the MSNBC shows have the same guests agreeing with each other.

  8. missy5537 Says:

    I don’t think he cares whether he generates any controversy. If it happens, it happens, if not, fine. I think he’s just in to “opining”, and he’s been around long enough now that he doesn’t need any more publicity.

    And I don’t think he’s predictable at all. As soon as I trust him to put forth a conservative POV, he turns around and plays “devil’s advocate”, as if he really means it.

    Not to worry; Billo will be around for a while.

  9. I’m addressing Spud’s thesis that he’s no longer controversial, and my own that he’s not as interesting. That doesn’t make it bad television..just different than it used to be.

  10. lonestar77 Says:

    He’s definitely toned it down some. I wonder if he’s on Prozac or something? Anyway, I think his show great. I find it “interesting”.

  11. Of course, “less interesting” also means “more watchable” for people who frequently disagree with him. He may have been more interesting and controversial five years ago, but I couldn’t get through five minutes of that vein-popping crap without popping one myself, so there’s that.

  12. So is Spud’s ” passe’ ” because BOR’s performances became overexposed with the nightly spotlight of KO or is that that the programme has actually been toned down?

  13. lonestar77 Says:

    ^ I think it’s a little bit of both. The left-wing media prolly concluded that after a decade, they weren’t going to be able to bring him down. That coincided with him “toning it down” a bit. I think it’s a coincidence that two happened around the same time. I don’t think they’re related.

  14. He got older. Not much mystery there.

  15. Older means toned-down? I have family members very dear to me who really need to hear this wonderful revelation.

  16. lonestar77 Says:

    “Older means toned-down?”

    No sh!t. I guess that doesn’t apply to Joe! 🙂

    I guess the evidence that O’Reilly is “passe” is the fact that liberals aren’t swarming right now calling him every name in the book. Or, maybe they’ve just grown bored and tired of it. Guy was public enemy #1 among the left, MSM, etc. for years.

  17. That was just ditzy liberals who thought O’Reilly was a conservative. He’s on FOX – he as to be!

  18. Where in the ell did my h go?

  19. Writing with an accent again?

  20. No sh!t. I guess that doesn’t apply to Joe!

    I would’ve been banned quicker than Toon ten years ago, sonny.

  21. lonestar77 Says:

    ^ Yikes. And, I forgot about ol’ Toon.

  22. He doesn’t need to invent faux controversies like the folks at MSNBC do because he knows he can be successful by hosting a solid program.

    First of all, what faux controversies has MSNBC ever created?

    Second, if you think Bill O’Reilly has never created faux controversies… have you ever heard of the “War on Christmas”? How about the Nielsen ratings company being out to get him? Or the time that “Law & Order” mentioned his name, and he went after the show’s creator and got all worked up and “called them out”? Oh, and he also vowed everybody to boycott Spain, and some other countries, because he had some random beef with them. That’s just to name a few.

    Faux controversies from Billo? Never!

  23. Oh, another example is when O’Reilly (including most of Fox News) was freaking out over the rapper Common being at the White House thing, and he was one of the main people at the forefront of the faux controversy making a big hoopla about it. In fact, he had a debate with Jon Stewart where he got completely destroyed on the topic.

    I could go on and on, LS… so don’t play dumb, all of a sudden, even with these plethora of examples.

  24. savefarris Says:

    First of all, what faux controversies has MSNBC ever created?

    Were you not paying attention? MSNBC invented one literally yesterday when Big Ed accused Perry of racism by editing his “dark cloud” comment.

  25. imnotblue Says:

    I think “relevant” was the wrong word to use. He’s no longer the firebrand that he once was, and the angry folks on the left no longer see him as their #1 target. While I’m not sure his style has really changed that much (although, I still believe he seems happier and more relaxed since giving up his radio program), he isn’t getting into heated screaming matches as much anymore.

    He’s not irrelevant. If anything, I’d argue he’s MORE relevant. But that is not to say he’s viewed the same as he once was.

  26. lonestar77 Says:

    All those things you mentioned were a long time ago with the exception of the common thing and I would argue that that wasn’t a faux controversy.

    The point I was making about MSNBC was there continual “hey, look at me. I’m over here” programming. One prime example would be the amount of time they spend covering Fox News. A second would be the daily race baiting. Everything is “racist” to them.

    It’s just a completely different presentation. All the people at MSNBC come off as desperate and willing to do or say anything to attract viewers. Like him or not, O’Reilly isn’t like that. If he were, he wouldn’t be able to interview the POTUS.

  27. Everything is “racist” to them.

    Generic laughably inaccurate rightwing talking point. Rinse, repeat.

  28. lonestar77 Says:

    ^ You’re right, Joe. I was waaaaay off. No race baiting going on over there. Bwahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

  29. I don’t understand the concept of “they always”. I could run around screaming “they always call us Communists”, and it would have the same effect. You’ll find numerous instances of righties calling us Communists, and numerous instances where they don’t. What’s the point? I think Rush Limbaugh is a race-baiting lowlife, but even I can’t claim he does it “all the time”.

    Which reminds me, it’s been two weeks, and not a single commentor here has yet to denounce “like Robert Mugabe taking white farms”, a clearly racist epithet against the President. No, you just keep whining about how thay “always call us racist”, while ignoring an actual example of it from your Fearless Leader. Convenient.

  30. lonestar77 Says:

    Why are you so preoccupied with Rush? He’s no more “racist” than you are. He knows the exact things to say to push your buttons though. That’s his schtick. You think he says things like that by accident or maliciously? No effing way. He does it because he knows the left will go ape sh!t. Everybody understands that…except the left. It’s pretty farking brilliant.

  31. I’m “preoccupied” with him because he’s such a powerful force in conservative politics, and gets away with murder with you guys. I don’t agree that you can be a race-baiting a$$hole, then pass it off as “ok” because it’s “just a show to piss off liberals”. I’ve said a hundered times I doubt he’s literally racist, but he certainly knows how to feed that crap to real ones. I don’t see much difference between “believing it in your heart” and “stoking the fires of those who do”.

    Here’s an idea: Maybe he could stop attacking the President on racial terms, period. That’d be nice, eh? Then I could stop wondering wtf is wrong with his head, and stop wondering how otherwise perfectly decent people could absorb that crap without being offended by it.

  32. Hey Lonestar, here’s an idea. Ignore any comments about Rush. Just let it go. Joe’s lost his damn mind, perhaps not unexpectedly, and I’m sick of hearing about it. Just. Drop. The subject.

  33. Joe’s lost his damn mind, perhaps not unexpectedly

    That’s practically a clinical diagnosis, btw. Heed her advice.

  34. lonestar77 Says:

    “and stop wondering how otherwise perfectly decent people could absorb that crap without being offended by it.”

    Because it’s funny. You are allowed to laugh at racial jokes. I laughed at one yesterday when the British chick on Anderson Cooper mocked him as being a Vanilla Ice fan.

    There, I’m done.

  35. the British chick on Anderson Cooper mocked him as being a Vanilla Ice fan.

    I did enjoy that. Thank God he didn’t rap. Watching Anne Hathaway do it was bad enough.

  36. lonestar77 Says:

    I actually enjoyed the Hathaway rap. But, I hate actual rap so maybe that’s why. Anyway, it’s amazing how I disagree with you on everything. Or, it’s amazing how you’re just constantly so very wrong…

  37. Hathaway was amusing the first time I saw it. Unfortunately, I saw it a lot..

  38. Never seen it. Why do I feel blessed?

  39. “I’m gonna do it in the style of Lil Wayne.” Uh huh.

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  42. […] first touched on this subject six years ago when I asked if Bill O’Reilly had become passe. In that article I noted that Glenn Beck’s arrival at FNC had made O’Reilly look a […]

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