Available Balance
Art, also called (to distinguish it from other art forms) visual art
November 14, 2017

a visual object or experience consciously created through an expression of skill or imagination. The term art encompasses diverse media such as painting, sculpture, printmaking, drawing, decorative arts, photography, and installation.
The various visual arts exist within a continuum that ranges from purely aesthetic purposes at one end to purely utilitarian purposes at the other. Such a polarity of purpose is reflected in the commonly used terms artist and artisan, the latter understood as one who gives considerable attention to the utilitarian. This should by no means be taken as a rigid scheme, however. Even within one form of art, motives may vary widely; thus a potter or a weaver may create a highly functional work that is at the same time beautiful—a salad bowl, for example, or a blanket—or may create works that have no purpose beyond being admired. In cultures such as those of Africa and Oceania, a definition of art that encompasses this continuum has existed for centuries. In the West, however, by the mid-18th century the development of academies for painting and sculpture established a sense that these media were “art” and therefore separate from more utilitarian media. This separation of art forms continued among art institutions until the late 20th century, when such rigid distinctions began to be questioned.
Particularly in the 20th century, a different sort of debate arose over the definition of art. A seminal moment in this discussion occurred in 1917, when Dada artist Marcel Duchamp submitted a porcelain urinal entitled Fountain to a public exhibition in New York City. Through this act, Duchamp put forth a new definition of what constitutes a work of art: he implied that it is enough for an artist to deem something “art” and put it in a publicly accepted venue. Implicit within this gesture was a challenge to the established art institutions—such as museums, exhibiting groups, and galleries—that have the power to determine what is and is not considered art. Such intellectual experimentation continued throughout the 20th century in movements such as conceptual art and minimalism. By the turn of the 21st century, a variety of new media (e.g., video art) further challenged traditional definitions of art.

Rate This Content
What’s on TV Monday: Veterans Day Documentaries and ‘Ill Behaviour’
November 14, 2017

HBO and PBS honor Veterans Day with two new documentaries. And the wildly imaginative comedy “Ill Behaviour” arrives on Showtime.
What’s on TV

WAR DOG: A SOLDIER’S BEST FRIEND (2017) 8 p.m. on HBO; also on HBO streaming platforms. Directed by Deborah Scranton (“The War Tapes”), this new documentary looks at the bond between Special Operations soldiers and the K9s that serve them in combat. Three soldiers recount how their loyal, four-legged partners stood by their side on the battlefield and provided emotional support during the darkest times.

PARADISE RUN 7 p.m. on Nickelodeon. Set in Hawaii, this game show pits pairs of young contestants against each other in grueling competitions.
MAN WITH A PLAN 8:30 p.m. on CBS. Matt LeBlanc dips his toes into hands-on parenting in this family sitcom. Mr. LeBlanc plays Adam Burns, a contractor who gives up his role as Daddy Fun Times to become a stay-at-home dad after his wife, Andi (Liza Snyder), returns to work. Adam — a beer-loving man’s man — struggles with his new role but finds his way. The sitcom has its amusing moments, but its premise is a tad outdated, James Poniewozik wrote in The New York Times. In this second-season premiere, Andi becomes jealous when her daughter Kate (Grace Kaufman) turns to the family’s new babysitter for advice. Even worse, the attractive hire has her eyes on Adam.

ALMOST SUNRISE (2017) 10 p.m. on PBS (check local listings). Two Iraq veterans, Tom Voss and Anthony Anderson, decide to come to terms with their wartime memories by walking from Milwaukee to Santa Barbara, Calif. Their symbolic trek was an attempt to overcome their “moral injury,” which this documentary defines as “a wound to the soul, caused by participation in events that violate one’s deeply held sense of right and wrong.” The 2,700-mile journey also helped raise funds for a veterans gathering place in Milwaukee.
ILL BEHAVIOUR 10:30 p.m. on Showtime. This new dark comedy series imagines just how far some would go for the ones they love. When Charlie (Tom Riley) announces he has cancer but is opting for natural healing remedies instead of chemotherapy, his best friend, Joel (Chris Geere), won’t have it. With the help of his college friend Tess (Jessica Regan), Joel kidnaps Charlie, locks him in a basement and has an oncologist (Lizzy Caplan) administer chemotherapy against his will.

Rate This Content
Jon Stewart and Robert Smigel Craft a Comedy Benefit at a Polarized Moment
November 14, 2017

Across their comedy careers, Jon Stewart and Robert Smigel have taken wildly different approaches to topical humor. Mr. Stewart, as the host of “The Daily Show,” honed a pointed, partisan perspective that rooted out hypocrisy in current events. Mr. Smigel has developed a gleefully unmannered voice that he’s used to send up politics and pop culture on shows like “Saturday Night Live” and as his trash-talking puppet creation, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.
The two friends recently spoke about their views of the current political moment as they prepare for their annual comedy concert, “Night of Too Many Stars: America Unites For Autism Programs,” to benefit Next for Autism, which creates and supports school programs and services for people with autism. This year’s event will be held on Saturday at the Theater at Madison Square Garden and broadcast live on HBO, with a lineup that includes Chris Rock, Stephen Colbert, Adam Sandler, Abbi Jacobson and Hasan Minhaj.

This interview occurred before The New York Times published a report on the sexual misconduct of Louis C.K., who was scheduled to perform at the benefit. HBO has since announced that he has been dropped from the lineup. In a statement provided after the interview, Mr. Stewart and Mr. Smigel said: “It’s obviously very upsetting, and we hope the victims are finding some solace. We’re thankful that the culture’s finally changing and allowing them to feel safe enough to speak out.”
The show comes at a challenging moment for comedy, which is having a hard time preserving an inclusive, big-tent spirit when performers feel compelled to express their personal politics in their work. Mr. Stewart and Mr. Smigel got together recently to talk about “Night of Too Many Stars” and how comedy has been affected by internet culture and polarization. These are edited excerpts from that conversation.
When did you two first meet?

JON STEWART Hebrew school.

ROBERT SMIGEL Summer camp. We were in “Godspell” together. I think I met you at an “S.N.L.” party.

STEWART Those were always the parties that you’d walk outside and go, it’s light again.

SMIGEL The first benefit my wife, Michelle, and I did for NBC was in 2003. Everybody who does the show, they’re happy to help and I’m very grateful. Jon was really curious, and when I told him why this exists, it was because my son Daniel couldn’t get into any kind of school that could help him at that age.

Rate This Content
Governors Awards Omit Mention (Onstage) of Sex Harassment Scandals
November 14, 2017

LOS ANGELES — The show apparently goes on.

On Saturday night, as chauffeured S.U.V.’s carrying the likes of Jennifer Lawrence and Steven Spielberg inched through gridlock traffic en route to the Governors Awards, the first major stop on Hollywood’s long march to the Oscars, a question hung in the air: How would attendees handle self-celebration at a time when sexual harassment scandals are engulfing the entertainment industry?

On the presenter list were some of Hollywood’s most outspoken women, including Angelina Jolie, Ava DuVernay and Jessica Chastain. Would the tone be less gleeful than usual? Perhaps the Piper-Heidsieck Brut Champagne would flow a little less freely?

The outcome was perhaps summed up best by a moment during the cocktail hour, when a waiter arrived with a tray of hors d’oeuvres. “Deviled eggs for everyone!” he cheerfully pronounced.
Indeed, the topic of sexual harassment went unmentioned during the formal ceremony, which lasted more than three hours and covered honorary Oscars for the cinematographer Owen Roizman, the actor Donald Sutherland and three directors — Agnès Varda, Charles Burnett and Alejandro G. Iñárritu. The closest anyone came to the elephant in the room was Ms. Jolie, who introduced Ms. Varda, the filmmaker credited with inspiring the French new wave movement with her 1956 film, “La Pointe Courte.”

“We need to draw strength from artists like Agnès,” Ms. Jolie said from the stage. “Those women who went first, who took that first step, showed the way for all of us.”
Then Ms. Jolie and the mischievous Ms. Varda did a little dance.
It seemed during a few moments as if the Governors Awards were taking place in a parallel dimension where the torrent of sexual harassment allegations against male stars, producers and directors did not exist. Dustin Hoffman, for instance, strode onstage and was greeted with enthusiastic applause. In recent weeks, Mr. Hoffman was accused of sexual harassment by two women. He issued an apology on Nov. 1.

Rate This Content
Contemporary Art Sales: Do I Hear $100 Million?
November 14, 2017

The bellwether November gigaweek of art auctions starting Monday promises drama, with the most talked-about inclusion in a New York contemporary art sale in years — and a last-minute exclusion of works by Norman Rockwell.

What is a painting by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) doing in Christie’s sale of postwar and contemporary art Wednesday night, sandwiched between Jean-Michel Basquiat and the Latvian-born Vija Celmins?

Simple. At these important biannual auctions, the evening contemporary sales are where the world’s wealthiest art collectors do their buying. And Christie’s is expecting Leonardo’s recently rediscovered “Salvator Mundi” to sell for at least $100 million.

A guarantee of a minimum, undisclosed bid, by a third party, ensures that the price is certain to set a new high for an old master at auction, beating the $76.7 million achieved in 2002 at Sotheby’s in London for the Rubens masterpiece “The Massacre of the Innocents” ($83.5 million today).
And when fees are added, it should also exceed the colossal $110.5 million spent by the Japanese collector Yusaku Maezawa for a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting at Sotheby’s contemporary auction in May. The allure of Leonardo has already inspired Paramount to buy the film rights to Walter Isaacson’s newly published biography of the Italian Renaissance artist, with Leonardo DiCaprio as the lead.

“It’s an iconic picture and an iconic name,” Jean-Luc Baroni, a dealer in old masters, based in London, said of the Leonardo. “By putting it in a contemporary sale, they shine a big light on the painting.” And for clients of contemporary art, “the price level might sound less prohibitive,” he added.

Impressionist, modern and contemporary art with an estimated value of least $1.6 billion will be offered at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips. The value of these consignments, which include works by Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol, Fernand Leger and Franz Kline, as well as, incongruously, a Ferrari racecar, represents an increase of more than 46 percent over the equivalent auctions last November.

Rate This Content
Louis C.K. and Hollywood’s Canon of Creeps
November 14, 2017

Soon after Harvey Weinstein was first outed as a sexual predator, I created a document titled “Creeps” in which I tried to list every man who had sexually harassed or assaulted me. It’s a companion to the running inventory that I keep in my head of the male filmmakers, in Hollywood and out, whose work degrades or disdains women. This is another kind of cinematic canon, one that includes directors I loathe and those I otherwise sometimes admire, however reluctantly. I imagine that a lot of women who love movies even when the movies don’t love us back have their own such lists.

One fallacy about criticism is that it can be practiced objectively, as if we could see and write about movies from some sort of out-of-body experience. As if it were possible for me to watch a movie in which women are abused for no apparent reason — without even a pretense of narrative rationale — and view this exploitation as simply another formal attribute, like the cinematography, soundtrack or superb camerawork. I’ve watched a lot of movies with really excellent camerawork from male directors who treat women onscreen like garbage. And then there’s the peculiar and ugly case of Louis C.K., whose forthcoming movie, “I Love You, Daddy,” was recently yanked by its distributor.

Louis C.K. is of course only the latest powerful man to be accused of what is politely called sexual misconduct, in his case masturbating in front of appalled women. On Friday, he admitted in a statement that “these stories are true,” closing with a pledge that I hope is widely heeded: “I have spent my long and lucky career talking and saying anything I want. I will now step back and take a long time to listen.” I don’t feel bad for him or mourn a career that may be over. He’s rich and can crawl into a cushy hole, where he should follow his own advice and listen, namely to women who have been silenced by men who are free to say — and do — what they want.

This freedom is at the center of “I Love You, Daddy,” which now serves as the last will and testament for at least Louis C.K.’s career to date. I first saw the movie in September at the Toronto International Film Festival. As a catalog of male pathology, it made me laugh, at times uncomfortably, but part of its power was that it also seemed confessional. The history of cinema is also a history of the exploitation of women, and here was a male director seemingly grappling with this. As I wrote then: “Cinema has long served as a vehicle for male onanism, a space in which male fantasies about sexual power over women are expressed on screen and enacted behind the camera.”

“I Love You, Daddy” is a compendium of such male fantasies. It centers on a successful television director, Glen (Louis C.K.), in the midst of myriad crises. He’s incapable of parenting his 17-year-old daughter, China (Chloë Grace Moretz), and caves to her every wish. (“Can I take the jet?”) He’s similarly thwarted at work. He’s signed up to create a new TV show but is creatively stuck, to the exasperation of his producing partner, Paula (Edie Falco). Meanwhile, he has fired one actress and hired another, Grace (Rose Byrne), and they start sleeping together. She introduces Glen to his idol, a pompous, 68-year-old filmmaker named Leslie (John Malkovich), who, as someone says, “likes young girls.”
Continue reading the main story
Related Coverage

Louis C.K. Is Accused by 5 Women of Sexual Misconduct NOV. 9, 2017
After Weinstein: A List of Men Accused of Sexual Misconduct and the Fallout for Each NOV. 10, 2017
How the Myth of the Artistic Genius Excuses the Abuse of Women NOV. 10, 2017

Recent Comments
lou andrews 44 minutes ago

For those who think Woody Allen is guilty of anything please read this article posted on the Times: https://www.nytimes…
Jim Muncy 44 minutes ago

If a large cache of unsigned, but beautiful paintings were found in Germany, but could have been painted by a Nazi, would they nonetheless…
Dolcefire 44 minutes ago

Let’s start with the title of this piece and the reduction of molesters, pedofiles and rapist to “creeps.” NO! We’re not going to play this…

See All Comments Write a comment

Continue reading the main story

A lot happens in the movie, which repeatedly circles back to the question of whether it’s possible to separate the artist from the art, a question that some are asking now of Louis C.K. For Glen, this takes on extra urgency when China begins an undefined relationship with Leslie, who showers her with attention, shopping with her and sweeping her off to Paris. The first time they talk at length, Leslie even defines radical feminism for China, a scene that mirrors another in which Glen delivers a more generalized feminist lesson. Men explaining equality to a young woman is one provocation; another is that Grace defends sexual relations between teenage girls and adult men.

The other sustained provocation is that “I Love You, Daddy” is partly about the Woody Allen Problem. The film’s black-and-white cinematography is an obvious reference to Mr. Allen’s oft-celebrated 1979 film “Manhattan,” in which he plays a comedy writer having an affair with a 17-year-old girl. The title “I Love You, Daddy” refers to China’s repeated declaration to Glen, but it also seems like a nod at Mr. Allen’s expansive influence on comedy. Louis C.K. himself has been compared to Mr. Allen and he appeared in Mr. Allen’s 2013 drama “Blue Jasmine.” “He’s a very big deal in my life,” Louis C.K. said of being cast in that movie. “Since I was a little kid, I loved Woody Allen.”

Rate This Content
Nick Kroll Still Isn’t Over Puberty. Just Ask His Therapist.
November 14, 2017

With its squirm-inducing take on puberty — the bodily changes, mood swings and sexual curiosity — the Netflix series “Big Mouth” can be shockingly dirty.

“But beneath that is a show that’s trying to talk about really important lessons,” said Nick Kroll, one of its stars and creators. “Something that adults would enjoy but also that kids could watch and feel like they’re not traversing this incredibly tricky time alone.”

“Big Mouth” reimagines the puberty of the real-life besties Andrew Goldberg, an early bloomer, and Mr. Kroll, a very late one, as they’re guided by the demonic Hormone Monster (voiced by Mr. Kroll) and Monstress (Maya Rudolph). No one escapes unscathed: Among the tales of teenage terror are the night that Andrew (John Mulaney) ejaculates while slow-dancing with a girl and the day Jessi (Jessi Klein) gets her period during a class trip to the Statue of Liberty — in white shorts, no less.

In a call from Buenos Aires, where he is shooting Chris Weitz’s “Operation Finale,” about the hunt for Adolf Eichmann, Mr. Kroll discussed some of his own coming-of-age embarrassments. Here are edited excerpts from the conversation.
What’s your most humiliating puberty story?

I got “pantsed” in seventh grade. But my underwear came down as well, and my penis was exposed to the girl that I had my crush on. I hadn’t hit puberty, so it was a bald little cashew. That definitely had a lasting effect.

You’ve called this the most autobiographical of all your shows.

So many of the feelings and emotions that I was going through at 12 and 13 have become the DNA of the rest of my life. I’ve been in therapy for a long time and found that things I was talking about I would then use in building the character of Nick, and vice versa.

When did you start puberty?

I got my first pubic hair when I was going into high school, so about 14-ish. I was very small and gregarious and, I think, a likable kid. Then when I hit puberty, I became much more temperamental and explosive, and my parents were taken aback. I also grew probably 10 inches in high school, to a strapping 140 pounds.

Rate This Content
Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s Wrapped Delights, Real and Imagined
November 14, 2017

BRUSSELS — In 1975, the artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude approached the civic authorities in Barcelona, Spain, with a plan to wrap the nearly 200-foot-tall Columbus Monument at the end of La Rambla boulevard. The artists, known for gigantic projects in which large structures are draped in cloth and trussed with rope, had already given their signature treatment to places such as the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, a Roman-era wall in the Italian capital and a section of the Australian coastline.

“We worked with the mayor,” Christo said in a telephone interview from New York, recalling the proposal in Barcelona. “After two years, he said no. He was assassinated and killed. Not by us, but someone else. In 1981, there was another mayor. He said no. He was almost assassinated, but survived.”

“In 1984, we received a call from another mayor,” Christo added. “He said ‘please come and wrap it.’ We said we didn’t want to do it anymore. We lost the desire. In these projects, nothing is rational. They are whimsical and personal.”
The monumental works of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, his wife and artistic partner, who died in 2009, are the subject of an exhibition in the ING Art Center in Brussels called “Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Urban Projects,” which opened last month and runs through February 2018. As well as records and depictions of their large-scale projects, the exhibition includes more than a dozen ideas that were never completed — a tantalizing opportunity to imagine great works of art that never existed.

In addition to about 80 exhibits, there are over 100 photographs on display, mostly taken by the photographer Wolfgang Volz, a frequent collaborator with the artists. Dazzling and illuminated, Mr. Volz’s blown-up images rotate on LED screens, bringing many of the artists’ completed projects to life and transporting visitors to locations like New York; Sydney, Australia; and rural Japan. Included are their most famous works, “Wrapped Reichstag,” realized in Berlin in 1995, and “The Pont Neuf Wrapped,” in which they shrouded Paris’s oldest bridge in silky fabric.

Rate This Content
On ‘The Good Doctor,’ the Anti-Antihero Is In
November 14, 2017

The title of ABC’s “The Good Doctor” is simple and complicated. Mostly, the show is exactly what it sounds like: a hospital melodrama, with whiz-bang medical science, a dash of intra-staff romance and shameless sentimentality. It’s more competent than good, but it’s well-versed in the workings of the human tear duct.

What makes it distinctive — and possibly what has made it, in its debut season, one of the most-watched shows on television — is the way it interrogates the word “good.” Is there more to it, the show asks, than simply being effective?
“The Good Doctor” does that, counterintuitively, with a protagonist whose inability to connect emotionally is one of his defining features. Dr. Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore), a new surgeon at a prestigious hospital in San Jose, Calif., has autism and savant syndrome.

Earnest but distant, Shaun often needs to have simple responses explained to him, like why parents would be sad to hear that their son is going to lose his leg when the amputation will save his life.

He’s also a brilliant surgeon, able to make intuitive leaps that elude others. (In the mold of difficult-genius dramas like “Sherlock,” “The Good Doctor” visualizes his insights with 3-D graphics, like a diagram of a liver that explodes into segments to explain the function of a key vein.) Still, his skeptical co-workers, like Dr. Neil Melendez (Nicholas Gonzalez), see him as a liability.
“The Good Doctor” is sharp enough to leave open the possibility that they might sometimes have a point. Shaun’s inability to read cues can alienate patients. When he’s cogitating on a diagnosis, he goes blank, like a computer app in spinning-wheel mode, and the show suspends the tension long enough that you, like his colleagues, wonder if something’s gone wrong.

The conceit of “The Good Doctor” is that the condition that limits Shaun’s human interactions is inseparable from his gift. I can’t speak to the accuracy of its representation of autism — I am neither a doctor, nor do I play one on TV — but Shaun’s emotional challenge is the show’s emotional engine.

Rate This Content
President Trump Finds His TV Niche in Softball Interviews
November 13, 2017

“You came into this job fighting like hell,” Lou Dobbs said to President Trump, one of many compliments he offered in their recent Fox Business interview. “And you are fighting like hell every day.”

Fact check: It depends. Sure, Mr. Trump plays the pugilist on Twitter, with N.F.L. players, legislators or whatever news show he happens to be watching at the time. But when it comes to TV sit-downs, the battler in chief now prefers pillow fights.

After all, why grapple with a network news anchor when he can chat with Mike Huckabee, the father of his press secretary? On the Oct. 7 premiere of his show on the Christian-oriented Trinity Broadcasting Network, Mr. Huckabee hit the president with such humdinger questions as “Does it sometimes bother you that [the first lady] has such fantastic approval ratings?”

Why go out of his way for aggravation when Sean Hannity will sit with him in front of a crowd at a Pennsylvania rally as the warm-up act? “Is he going to win Pennsylvania in 2020, too?” Mr. Hannity asked the cheering crowd, the political-interview equivalent of “Hello, Cleveland!”

Fox’s Sean Hannity interviews President Trump in Pennsylvania Video by Fox News

Previous presidents including Barack Obama and George W. Bush have , focusing on local telev with sympathetic questioners, along with submitting to more challenging interviews. And Mr. Trump has taken questions from various outlets in But when it comes to scheduled TV sitdowns, for nearly half a year Mr. Trump has given interviews to friendly opinion hosts and conservative media outlets.

who didn’t so much ask questions as open his mouth and let rose petals fall out. “President Trump,” he introduced the segment, “intends to restore and revive the fate and fortunes of not only our middle class but all Americans who aspire to it.

Even within Fox News, which fills Mr. Trump’s DVR with hours of daily pep talks, he chooses cozier digs. He dropped by the first week of Fox’s “The Ingraham Angle,” with Laura Ingraham. But he’s been scarce on the more straight-news-oriented shows of Bret Baier and Chris Wallace.

The last time Mr. Trump sat for a TV interview outside his comfort zone was in May. That was when he volunteered his mind-set in deciding to fire the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, who was then leading the probe into Russian election interference. The president said to himself, he recounted, “‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia was a made-up story.’”

There is no such danger in Mr. Trump’s safe space. But it also means he’s not reaching anyone beyond his base — a strategy that, the Republican drubbing in the off-year elections suggests, has its limits.

For his die-hard fans, Mr. Trump sticks to his greatest hits: the media is “fake” (“one of the greatest terms of all I’ve come up with,” he told Mr. Huckabee); we’re going to build the wall; they said we couldn’t get to 270 electoral votes, but we got 306. (Ultimately 304.) He’s speaking to an audience that isn’t watching to see news made or questions answered but to hear, again: We won.

Indeed, Mr. Trump’s interviews with his boosters hardly make news except by accident, as when he defended a lag in diplomatic hiring to Ms. Ingraham by saying, “I’m the only one that matters.”

To understand Mr. Trump as a president, you have to remember that he was a celebrity first, and he still uses the media like a celebrity does. His first remark to Ms. Ingraham about the Republican tax bill was “We’ve gotten really great reviews,” as if he were plugging a new movie on “The Tonight Show.” He repeatedly gave Mr. Hannity his highest honor: praising his Nielsen ratings.

In Mr. Trump’s first celebrity phase, as a brass-plated capitalist cartoon in the ’80s and ’90s, he was a media gadfly. He chased the cameras, planted his name in the tabloids and exchanged locker-room talk with Howard Stern. The point, then, was to be outrageous, to stir the pot. There was no such thing as bad attention.

This was the approach that the candidate Trump used, keeping CNN and “Morning Joe” on speed dial, taking advantage of billions of dollars of free media to ensure that he was the protagonist of the election. For a while, in 2015 and 2016, he was freely available on TV, proving that he could shoot off his mouth in a Fifth Avenue studio and still not lose his voters.

Donald Trump: ‘My Primary Consultant Is Myself’ | Morning Joe | MSNBC Video by MSNBC

Mr. Trump’s second celebrity era was as the host, star and grand prize of “The Apprentice.” There, editors imposed a linear arc on his vagabond sentences, gave coherence to his impulsive decisions. “The Apprentice” had a vested interest in plumping him up — to be the best show, it needed to make him into the best businessman. It styled him to appear successful, decisive, wise, desired and obeyed.

Now, as president, Mr. Trump has delegated the job of reality producer to friendly media outlets. Where other interviewers would challenge or press for details, his chosen hosts do the clarifying for him and offer him talking points couched as questions. “Are you getting the credit for this economic revival?” Ms. Ingraham asked.

Above all, they offer affirmation, and Mr. Trump basks in it like the first warming light of creation. At the Pennsylvania interview on Oct. 11, Mr. Hannity engaged the home-team crowd as if hosting a live “Apprentice” finale. What did they think of Mr. Trump, he asked? (Yay!) What about Congress? (Boo!) And what about the media? (Booooo!)

It’s that cheering crowd, one suspects, that is really driving the dynamic here. The point of all the delicate meringue questions is not simply to avoid challenging the president. It’s to avoid challenging the audience.

These interviews are a reciprocal exchange for a closed circle. The base gets to cheer its leader and boo the haters. The interviewers get to prove their loyalty, presenting themselves as official Trump-endorsed products.

And the president gets to end the exchange nodding and smiling, like someone who knows he has gotten the better part of the deal.

Rate This Content