After three years of working in the segment production unit of the PBS series NewsHour, Steve Goldbloom gained access to editing rooms where he observed formulaic cutting and pasting of b-roll, walk-and-talks, and tailor-made soundbites. The artificiality of news segments along with the veneered, humorless environment of production sets, was hilarious to Goldbloom.
When Goldbloom discovered the humor of the newsroom he metamorphosed into the key holder to satirical gold -- and he just couldn't let it go.
"I have an affinity for the ridiculous," Goldbloom says. "From working at a very serious show... I always thought it would be funny to lampoon."
Over the summer of 2013, Goldbloom was in fact provided the opportunity to take a crack at PBS programming, specifically the flagship show, NewsHour. Goldbloom, along with longtime friend Noah Pink, co-created Everything But the News, a PBS Digital Studios and ITVS co-production that debuted Feb. 12 on PBS.org.
This is PBS's first scripted comedy series, and as promised, Everything But the News takes a satirical jab at the face of journalism with topical references in an almost masochistic fashion, as Goldbloom's character shares his name. It's honest, surprisingly informative and most importantly -- it's hilarious. The 10-part series is a mockumentary style behind-the-scenes look into the life of a "cub reporter" whose beat is the tech and start-up industries around California, specifically San Francisco.
"We wanted to scrub the polish off of those professional news packages," Goldbloom says. "Reporters aren't as official and serious as they come across. Why not see people vulnerable and natural on camera? So that's what we did."
Goldbloom, now senior producer at ITVS, was able to launch the show because he had been doing reports of festivals for PBS where he would give the option of serious coverage, or, unconventional, silly coverage. Online viewers were much more interested in the goofier segments, according to Goldbloom, and with the success, PBS Digital Studios grew interested in collaborating with him on a new project. Originally they proposed that he read the news. What Goldbloom pitched, however, was that he make fun of others who read the news, specifically NewsHour.
"I love public media; I love the NewsHour, and I see a tremendous value on that real estate on PBS," Goldbloom says. "I never thought in a million years that they would say, yeah, because it's kind of a weird thing to pitch -- but they did."
The five-to-seven-minute episodes are staged as NewsHour segments, giving it a show within a show type feel. A part of his pitch, was to also include real NewsHour anchors to introduce each segment, and they agreed. However, instead of the "polished" segment you would normally get, it's the cut from the editor's room that we see, playing the part of a gag reel of news segments.
The series follows Goldbloom, pegged as the eager young journalist obsessed with the greats Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer, as he struggles to grasp his assignments. He often battles his producer, Jordan Smith, through phone conversations in Abbot-and-Costello-like bits, about what the story is and what the story should be. Cameraman Noah Pink, is just as much a character as Goldbloom. Pink doesn't speak but once in the first episode, however, he uses the mise en scene to get his message across. Pink's pan shots, zooms in and out, montage edits and rack focusing can be just as funny, if not more, than Goldbloom's misadventures.
Goldbloom and Pink aren't experts on tech or start ups, but that doesn't stop them from covering (or trying to cover) topics of Vlogging, rideshares, internet dating, and fitness apps/gadgets and many more. It's their attempt to "hold up the satirical mode of journalism," Goldbloom says -- where the interviews are organic, and the real and scripted are intertwined.
"The idea is to build an environment where you can't tell what's real and what's not," Goldbloom says. "The executives of these wildly successful companies in the Bay Area, they do interviews all the time. Ideally this format humanizes them or sheds some light on them in a way that's different from the way you saw them in their standard media appearance."
Overall, Everything But the News hits home (at least for us journalists here at SF Weekly) and while it may be painfully true at parts it is just as achingly hilarious. PBS Digital Studios is releasing one episode a week on Wednesdays to their YouTube channel, but if you're one to binge on a series, the whole season can be found at PBS.org. This Wednesday "Modern Love: JDate, Match.com & Grindr" airs on YouTube, where Goldbloom reports on online dating.
Check out the pilot episode and let us know what you think.