The Atlantic checks in with Glenn Beck as his Web TV network nears its first birthday. James Parker, the Atlantic’s entertainment columnist, penned a hilarious 1,300-word piece for the magazine’s June issue about GBTV, which he declared “looks like cute little baby network.”
When Glenn Beck “parted company” with Fox News in June of last year, he took his Glenn Beck-ness with him. He took his tears, and his chalkboards, and his patriotic unction. He took his world-historical sweep and his zodiac of personal demons. He took his edifying projects and his long-haul feuds, his hobbyhorses and hobgoblins. He took his face, his voice, the vials of his wrath, the quivering curds of his indignation—he took it all, and he left the network. Gone! There was no replacement for Glenn Beck. None was possible. The portal simply resealed itself, and there we were again—we the people, the watchers of Fox, back with the everyday lineup of guffers and bluffers.
Parker watches some of the network’s offerings, which range from comedy ( The B.S. of A) to reality TV ( Independence USA) to children’s television ( Liberty Treehouse ). There is also, “inevitably, hours of the maestro himself, on the mic, talking to the camera, rolling and wallowing in airtime like a basking seal. Only Glenn Beck can do what Glenn Beck does. … He may lack the kingpin malevolence of Rush Limbaugh, or the triumphant mendacity of Sean Hannity, but only Beck, discoursing in his heady, open-pored way, can really take you there, to that ideological alpha state wherein squinting mistrust combines with a quite extraordinary credulousness.”
Launching the network in September was “risky, very risky, a precipitous venture from a precipitous man,” Parker writes. Beck sunk millions of dollars into his new venture, and that was months before he announced he was building a huge new headquarters for GBTV in Irving. But though his daily viewers have dropped from the millions he enjoyed on Fox, his influence isn’t exactly waning: Parker predicts that Beck will not remain relegated to “blustering and bunkum-izing in an Internet backwater” and that he, as a “man of the future,” has likely “seen around the corner, to the moment when TV and the Internet converge.”
Beck also landed the number 23 spot on Forbes’s Celebrity 100 list this year, jumping up from the number thirty slot on last year’s list. “Who needs Fox News? Beck is his own network now. GBTV, his internet-only video channel, already has more than 300,000 subscribers, making it the biggest component of his fast-growing multimedia empire, Mercury Radio Arts,” his blurb in Forbes read.