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February 6, 2009 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | February 6, 2009 |

I used to be in a very lengthy relationship with a woman whose sister was mentally handicapped. Goddamn, she was awesome (the sister, not the woman). She was in her 20s, but she had the intelligence capacity of a 3rd grader, so she spent most of her day watching cartoons and singing Bon Jovi tunes. There was something insanely remarkable about her. She was permanently in a wheelchair (her legs snapped in two while she was walking one day), and all she really knew about the world was Uno and Sesame Street, but hell if it was possible to be anything but cheery around her. And in a completely unintentional way, she made it possible to tell what kind of a person someone else was just by watching the way they interacted with her. If someone didn’t deign to provide her with the attention she warranted, ignored, gawked (and there was a lot of that), or otherwise blew her off, you knew that that guy was an asshole.

I met a lot of assholes when I was around her.

I suspect, to, that had MTV kept the cameras rolling or not cut away, its new show “How’s Your News?” (debuting Sunday) might have revealed similar assholish tendencies in some of the interview subjects. As I’d written before, I was seriously skeptical of the program’s intentions — a show where mentally disabled people interview both real people and celebrities seemed wholly out of place in a block of new shows that includes “The CollegeHumor Show.” I didn’t feel that MTV and its hoopleheaded, Hannah Montana tweener demographic was exactly the right kind of audience for the show, but after watching “How’s Your News?” I think I was probably wrong. It is exactly the kind of show that MTV thrives on: Empty, inoffensive, celebrity-filled junk-food fodder for the unwashed teenage masses. Look: I’m not going to condescend to the show simply because its reporters are disabled, but I’ll give the show this much: It’s cute. It’s an easy-to-watch half-hour with enough segment teasers to keep its viewers glued through the commercial breaks.

The show began a decade ago as a video class at a summer camp for people with disabilities. The video shorts eventually came to the attention of Matt Stone and Trey Parker, who helped to produce a feature-length film, which followed five disabled reporters on a bus trip across America who conducted a series of man-on-the-street interviews (there’d be three more documentaries and even a soundtrack to follow). Parker and Stone fell in love with the crew because of their “unique perspective.” Unfortunately, that perspective seems to be lacking in the MTV show — it’s not that dissimilar from MTV’s other interview fare, only the “How’s Your News” crew may be a little smarter than the average MTV reporter. I guess I was just hoping for something a little more emotional and life-affirming, instead of what we get: John Stamos being a really nice guy by hanging out on the bus with a few disabled folks, and a few celebrities on the red carpet delivering the same empty sound bytes they do to all of the reporters, only they seem to be doing it with less irritation (save for, who actually may be an asshole). The man on the street interviews, likewise, reveal the “man on the street” to be the ones with actual intellectual limitations — the “HYN” reporters ask silly questions, and they get stupid answers.

But, I’ll give the show this much: There’s no real exploitation going on here. It’s harmless nonsense — we get to see Jimmy Kimmell and Sarah Silverman make up amusingly inappropriate answers to their own questions because they can’t understand a word the speech-limited reporter asks. One of the “HYN” news reporters really likes to drum, so he seeks out the drummers to all the bands at the Grammy Awards. And another woman accosts people on the street and asks them what they think about the legalization of pot. It looks like a lot of fun, actually, for the reporters. For those of us watching a home? Not so much. But, we could spend an idle half hour watching “How’s Your News” and feel good knowing that we’re supporting their experiences, but that’s a little patronizing. Anyway, there’ll be plenty in MTV’s demographic that will dig the show and go away thinking they’ve gained a new perspective. Unfortunately, it’s the same perspective they’re subjected to every time they watch MTV; the talking heads are just a lot more likable.

"How's Your News" / Dustin Rowles

TV | February 6, 2009 |

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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