I've been here at my desk watching Headline News, and I've discovered something shocking, nay stunning, nay outrageous, about myself: I find Nancy Grace oddly soothing.
Sure, I could tune in another program and hear about jobs disappearing, banks collapsing and Congress bickering about it all. But that would be so confusing. So bleak.
Here in Graceland, the world is so much better. So much clearer. Nancy tells us when really big things are happening by declaring, "Bombshell." As in: "Bombshell. Grandfather George Anthony at a breaking point ... "
Here in Graceland, we don't like criminals and defense lawyers. We don't like people who think criminals might not be criminals. Because they obviously are. And we especially love children and Nancy's beautiful twins (she talks about them all the time) and the way Nancy is a much better mother than, say, Casey Anthony.
Anthony is the 20-something mom accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, in Florida last summer. You would know that and how especially furious we all are about that if you had watched even one segment of Grace's hour of outrage.
It turns out that I'm not the only one who has been drawn in, hypnotized even, by Nancy's fury and relentless pursuit of the obvious. Ratings for "Nancy Grace" jumped 42 percent last year over 2007, to more than 1.3 million if you count the program's repeat hour each evening.
That leap helped Headline News to its highest ratings, apparently cementing the cable outlet's commitment to fare that is sensational, simplistic and, yes, oddly comforting.
Turner Broadcasting recently renamed the Headline News simply HLN. But it might as well have gone with CAN, as in Caylee Anthony Network, because HLN has been riding the toddler's pathetic demise for hours each day.
If you've caught Grace in an earlier incarnation, say on Court TV, you'll recognize the basic package: the helmet of platinum blond above angry, framing cigarette-thin eyebrows and eyes that narrow at the slightest hint of sympathy for the accused.
Don't fret if you missed a moment of the tragedy of Caylee, who disappeared last summer before the discovery of her remains not far from her grandparents' Orlando-area home.
Nancy's opening montage each night regurgitates the details of the body's discovery like they happened yesterday - the "beautiful 2-year-old Florida girl," her body "skeletonized" and "double-bagged like she's trash."
In Graceland old is new, and Grace's outrage over the murder seemingly expands by the day. So Nancy trumpets stale and incremental developments, endlessly flogging grainy jailhouse clips of the petulant and self-obsessed suspect, Casey Anthony, who, for simplicity sake, has been renamed Tot Mom.
Graphics flash and a bright red "Breaking News" crawls across the screen, as Nancy "unleashes" panels of "experts" and of lawyers.
Nancy's magic formula has spread through much of HLN's programming. So when Jane Velez-Mitchell replaced Glenn Beck as the Grace lead-in in November, she quickly bested the conservative bloviator's ratings.
How? By also focusing on Caylee's death.
Velez-Mitchell wrung her hands Thursday night about how someone had released details about Casey Anthony's dad being placed on suicide watch and worrying he had failed as a husband and father.
Velez-Mitchell called those revelations "heart-breaking."
"Who's leaking it? Is that going to help him get better?" she demanded. "Of course not."
So this is why the news hostess, deeply concerned about the Tot Grandpa, tells a national television audience about his woes?
But never mind. As I said, there is a purity of thought and presentation here in Graceland that can make a viewer feel so warm, so cozy.
The women who call in frequently coo to Grace about how adorable her twin girls are, before launching into venomous attacks on the day's bad guy. Panelists cluck, cluck and furrow their brows about the Tot Mom and her ilk.
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