McAdams On: What’s On TV

Thanks to the magic of television, we know that Lindsay Lohan is going to jail. We know that she is upset about going to jail. We know she had an expletive painted on her fingernail during her court hearing. We know who she is whether we want to or not, because her 90-day jail sentence merited coverage by national broadcast news outlets.

There were tearful images of the 24-year-old woman, who rates such high-level media coverage because she’s a national security risk. Or perhaps a weapon of mass destruction. Maybe she is a war being fought by American citizens on foreign soil. I heard she’s the next Dalai Lama.

The “Today” show featured an in-depth report on Miss Lohan that included indecipherable close-ups of her nastified fingernail. We learned from NBC’s legal analyst that the fingernailed judge gave the young lady a somewhat harsh sentence. A shocker indeed, especially for someone who’s been drunk in public for a decade.Anyone else would be sponging up tarballs in a orange jumpsuit, but that’s because they are not Nobel Prize-winning geneticists.

The follow-up coverage on “Today” pegged out the silly meter with NBC-logoed screen-grabs of Lohan’s tweets. Twitter, after all, is a hotbed of Mensans. Then the feature piece: “Lindsay in Lock Up: What Will Jail Time Be Like for Lohan?” It launched with an interview of a felonious stock broker who now “counsels people on how to survive jail time” because South Africa already has a president.

“She will be confined and that will be very, very difficult,” this expert said, clarifying everything.

Several other such individuals who became experts by writing books were interviewed by Meredith Viera, herself robbed of an Emmy nomination-robbed-for playing it straight through the entire eight-minute piece. Viera’s will stand as one of the most extraordinary demonstrations of television acting ever captured on an enormously expensive high-definition studio camera.

To be fair or something like it, “Today” isn’t exactly a “news” show, even if the piece was presented as such. Brian Williams cut right to the chase later on the more serious “Nightly News,” which covered the event because Lohan is a Russian spy posing as Queen Elizabeth to infiltrate Research in Motion on behalf of Motorola.

The extensive media coverage given this sorry spectacle says a lot about the news business in the United States of Celebrities. Gossip sells defective Toyotas better than images of brain-injured Americans returning from deployments in Afghanistan. Everyone watches stories about drug-addled magazine people, and they don’t incite one or another domestic extremist group into ranting about journalistic bias. Lindsay Lohan is a zero-risk story; a no-brainer that adds absolutely nothing to the public discourse for which news is constitutionally protected.

Unless she is the world’s leading expert on biological warfare. Or a deadly Al-Qaeda-trained assassin posing as a drunken floozy. Maybe she’s the Avatar master of all four elements, a Yaqui mystic or the ring-bearer. She could hold the key to eternal life, or be a necromancer.

More likely she’s just a kid in trouble that makes for decent ratings. Too bad for everyone.