The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
on entertainment and media

« Previous Post | The Big Picture Home | Next Post »

It's 'Spy vs. Spy' all over again: 'Simpsons' satire pits Bill O'Reilly against Fox TV

November 23, 2010 | 11:17 am

Bill_oreilly You've gotta love Rupert Murdoch. He is the ultimate big-tent capitalist. As I reported recently, Murdoch happily helps bankroll Jim Cameron's new environmental fund as a way of guaranteeing that his film division gets two more "Avatar" films while, with equal enthusiasm, he throws money at his recently acquired Wall Street Journal, whose editorial page consistently ridicules the notion of extreme climate change, attacking the thousands of leading scientists around the world who believe that global warming is a looming threat to the planet.

The Murdoch strategy of giving with one hand while taking with the other often unhinges the ideological warriors at Fox News, who wish Murdoch would be running more comedy shows on Fox TV nastily lampooning all those Prius-driving, latte-sipping, blue-state liberals. Alas, just the opposite often happens. In case you didn't see it, "The Simpsons" most recent episode had a wonderfully snarky little moment in which a Fox News helicopter, bearing the logo "Fox News: Not Racist, But #1 With Racists," flew into the Statue of Liberty, losing one of its blades. As the chopper tumbles earthward, its captain cries, "Stop! We're unbalanced! It's not fair!"

Great "Simpsons" satire, as always. But it didn't go over so well with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly. On Monday night's "O'Reilly Factor," Papa Bear grouched: "Continuing to bite the hand that feeds part of it, Fox broadcasting once again allows its cartoon characters to run wild. ... Pinheads? I believe so."

Note the awkward sentence construction. What O'Reilly really wanted to say was, "continuing to bite the hand that feeds it," since he'd love to make the argument that Fox News revenue is driving Fox's bottom line. But of course, that's not so. Not when you have shows like "The Simpsons" and "American Idol." In fact, it's hard to imagine a show that has been more profitable over its long TV run than "The Simpsons." Which is why those pesky "Simpsons" writers get to take jabs at Fox News. And why Jim Cameron gets Fox to bankroll his environmental causes. When you make a mountain of money for Rupert, you've earned the right to exercise as much freedom of speech as you want. 

Here's the clip:


Photo: Fox News' top-rated host, Bill O'Reilly, at his Fox News headquarters in New York.

Credit: Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times