As you've probably heard by now, Glenn Beck is ending his Fox News show. The parting is amicable, we're told, and it won't be the last we see of him.
Before I go any further, I will tell you openly that I didn't watch Beck's show, despite the "try it, you may like it" coaxing or scoldings of my conservative friends. Well, I did. When I did, I felt like I was 1) watching or listening to somebody on the verge of a breakdown or 2) getting a lecture from a fringe professor in a mild nightmare from my MU days. I did watch his rally in Washington last year and gave it a mixed review.
The new parlor game is whether he jumped or slipped. Beck is leaving Fox with solid numbers, even with ratings declines, the shadow of 400 Fox advertisers boycotting his show, and a stream of criticism.
Could he have spun way too many doomsday theories? Could he be too fringed for even Fox's outspoken lineup? Do people have an aversion to chalkboards?
Or perhaps the reason is a basic showbiz flaw: the act is getting stale. People aren't tuning into Beck perhaps because they know him too well. They know his politics and peeves and push-buttons. Nothing surprises them anymore. Nothing gives them motivation to keep tuning in, especially when the star of the show gives them little to hope for in America.
It is my thesis that political talk-show hosts intentionally stir the pot to keep their shows on the air. Polite talk makes great dinner table conversation but lousy Arbitron figures. Rush Limbaugh has figured out how to keep from falling into a rut after more than two decades on the national airwaves. I'm not sure Beck has learned the secret.