NBC”s next great hope: ‘Rock Center’

by Colin McGuire. 0 Comments

In the past six days, I’ve learned the following six things:

1. The Roots may possibly be the best live band in the universe (and that’s even when ?uestlove doesn’t show up).

2. I have grown a burning, undeniable hatred for the state of Florida, and I see no good reason why I or anyone else in the world should ever want to spend time there.

3. Whenever Best Buy has seasons four and five of “The Wire” on DVD for under $20, I should buy them without thinking twice.

4. Brandon Flowers will always and forever be someone I enjoy seeing perform, even when The Killers ultimately stop selling enough records that allow them the ability to tour big venues (and yes, it will happen).

5. I will always adore Kanye West no matter how many times his former bus driver tells me how unpleasant he can be.

And 6. NBC might be on to something with “Rock Center,” its television newsmagazine that is taking aim at being the least-watched network’s answer to “60 Minutes.”

Quick: Which one of those five things do you think I’m going to elaborate on?

That’s right. ?uestlove really did blow off his band’s set over the weekend. What a jerk!

I’m kidding.

“Rock Center.” It kicked off on Halloween night and has already made headlines with the following video …

(PRETEND JERRY SANDUSKY VIDEO IS HERE)

Notice the 18 seconds Sandusky took to answer the “Do you find boys sexually attractive?” question.

Anyways, “Rock Center” is good. No, really. It’s better than average. Only two weeks in and the program has offered some pretty good pieces on everything from Alabama’s illegal immigration law to Tina Fey admitting her love for “The Real Housewives” series (a move that should have been writing on the wall for all you “Community” fans who are upset at the show’s upcoming midseason time-out as the best television writer on the planet, Lisa de Moraes, noted so eloquently Monday night).

The reason behind its quick success? Brian Williams. The latest generation’s go-to man for hard news (whose last name isn’t Stewart or Colbert, mind you) gets to showcase his likable side here now more than ever. Sure, it might be a side that anyone who watches “30 Rock” or “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” could already know about. And yes, those who took notice of his Britunes music blog aren’t really discovering something new about the newsman by watching the show. But “Rock Center” allows us to see Williams in an element he’s most comfortable in (delivering the news), all while continuing the down-to-earth, sarcastic and decidedly light-hearted persona he has shown glimpses of in the past. It seems like the perfect combination, really.

But why bring it up here, you ask? Well, you have to check out the show’s Website. What sets “Rock Center” apart from “60 Minutes” is its willingness to incorporate as much Internet interaction as possible. So you thought the illegal immigration piece was good, but you wanted to hear more from the governor of Alabama? There’s an entire video dedicated to that footage on its Website. Mondays are crazy for you, and you simply don’t have the time to get home to catch the show as it airs live? Its website offers each video report as well as a stream of each show in its entirety. And here’s the thing: The video actually works. Unlike NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” page that can’t seem to load itself in less than 39 days, “Rock Center” offers up videos that take less than five seconds to load — and that even includes a full episode.

OK, stupid Colin. We get it. We understand how excited you are about the inception of this brand new program, but you do understand we can find video of “60 Minutes” segments almost anywhere online, and if all else fails, CBS offers podcasts of the show for free, right?

I do, disembodied voice. But here is what makes “Rock Center” more interesting: Each video is accompanied by a written version of the story itself. That’s right. In addition to the extra footage and easy-loading clips, you can find the reporter’s written take on the news in question. It’s sort of a neat idea, really. The show has decided to combine all forms of media in a way that makes each element both refreshing and informative. Take that, “Dateline.”

What this all truly means is that NBC has finally found something that genuinely works after spending years looking like a lost soul in the always-fickle world of television. We all know the network can’t possibly trail CBS, ABC and FOX anymore than it already does in the ratings war as less and less people tune into its programming. But for the first time in a long time, “Rock Center” is a show somebody — anybody — at NBC can feel good about. That’s got to count for something, right?

And to think Chelsea Clinton didn’t even file her first report, yet!

For those so inclined to check it out, the show airs at 10 p.m. on Mondays, though that will change on Feb. 8, when the program moves to Wednesdays. That said, if you don’t believe me, you can always wander over to the show’s site (which is the reason why this particular blog post even exists, remember) and look at a few of the videos yourself to see what all the fuss is about. As for me, I will watch the Tina Fey sit-down interview over and over until “30 Rock” comes back to replace … you guessed it … “Community” on Thursdays at the beginning of 2012.

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