You probably remember filmmaker Michael Moore’s Roger & Me, an irreverent, left-wingy documentary about General Motors. Moore has tried to translate his humorous skepticism to the small screen with TV Nation, but the results are depressingly smug. TV Nation offers endless variations on David Letterman’s outside-the-studio stunts, without Letterman’s tartness. Moore and his correspondents (who include former Letterman writer and producer Merrill Markoe) travel here and there, making fun of ordinary people. In Mexico, for instance, it’s employees of American companies — Moore’s supposedly subversive point is that U.S. big business is taking jobs away from Americans and giving them, at much lower salaries, to Mexicans, but all he really ends up doing is making low-level bureaucrats squirm.
In another sequence, African-American actor Yaphet Kotto (Homicide: Life on the Street) tries to hail a cab in Manhattan. He is frequently bypassed by cabbies who prefer to pick up a nearby white man — a Moore shill with a lengthy prison record. The bit is designed to show everyday racism, but once again, the point is blurred, because executive producer Moore ends up looking like a racist himself, picking on confused foreign-born cabdrivers who don’t speak enough English to defend themselves. It would be nice if TV Nation were what Moore claimed it would be: a funny show with a political sting. So far, it’s just self-righteous. C