A dead end on the Ventura highway

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July 28, 2003 // UPDATED 11:00 am - April 30, 2007
By: Terrell Brown
Terrell Brown

Our intrepid columnist attends Jesse Ventura's MSNBC show and comes away boa-ed to death

It's apparently coming to a television set near you. The only former Minnesota Governor (other than Arne Carlson) who in the past few decades was endorsed by neither the Democrats nor Republicans is going to have a television show. Just as Jerry Springer went from being an elected official (mayor) to TV host, so is Jesse Ventura. He's making another career change. He's lost his boa.

Personally, I liked the guy as governor; I was looking forward to his reelection. A person who not only told you what he thought, but wasn't a career politician, was refreshing. Besides that, he did a decent job. He was certainly better than the guy who followed him.

Not long ago, I received an e-mail that said "Be a guest in the audience of 'The Jesse Ventura show' and get a $20 gift certificate to the Mall of America!" I have no interest in the mall but was curious what our former Governor might be up to. I replied to the e-mail and found myself in the audience one evening.

I drove over to St. Paul (where they were taping the show) and found that at a bit after 7 p.m., the city was rolled up for the evening. If the show is from the "heartland," they should have looked for a living heart.

How does a news/current events show draw an audience? What does one do to differentiate itself from the other half dozen or so that you can find at any given time on any evening? I'm not sure the producers of Ventura's show know, either.

The show carried the name "The Arena with Jesse Ventura." That may have been the first clue as to who the intended audience is. The newslady in the "Research Center" may have been another clue; she certainly wasn't selected for the gay male demographic. I think it's aimed at a younger audience than most of us watching that night. Jesse is looking for an audience that is more Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity than James Carville.

How about Jesse in a debate? His audience picks the winner and if his opponent wins, his or her picture goes up on Jesse's bulletin board. Guess what? The bulletin board is empty. The night I was there, the Guv was against extending welfare.

They had a segment on police chases. What cable network is going to come out against police chases? Haven't police chases become a fixture on cable news outlets? It's NASCAR with class; you get to stay informed about current events and wait for the crash.

With five or six segments, we're pretty much guaranteed nothing will be discussed in depth. Perhaps the target audience is shallow.

We were presented with a segment questioning if teachers should be allowed to carry concealed guns in school. Guns the students wouldn't know the teacher had (we all believe that, don't we?). In preparation for Columbine II, our former governor proposed that the schools hire retired police officers as janitors; the retired cops would keep a gun in their pants leg. Only the principal would know.

Anyone know a retired cop who wants a job pushing a broom?

The format we saw that evening looks like a recipe to fail. I don't think they can come up with five interesting current topics a night for five nights a week. The show needs some depth. Even your hormone-loaded right-winger has an attention span longer than that.

Why is Ventura doing it? It has been reported that he has done well financially and doesn't need the money.

Ego? Certainly no one denies the ex-governor has an ego. Will his ego blur his vision when he looks at the tapes of the shows? Will his ego let him fail?

Can he make his ego work for him? Can he make it tell the group he calls "the suits" that the format doesn't work? I'd like to see the show succeed; if nothing else, it would focus some attention on Minnesota.

Incidentally, the gift certificate was a Visa gift card that covered the $18 bill to fill the gas tank of my Jeep.

Terrell Brown lives in Loring Park and works Downtown. He can be reached at terrell@terrellbrown.org. Letters to the editor may be sent to dbrauer@skywaynews.net.