This listicle is, by premise, gonna be a bit superficial, as well as totes subjective. Hey, if that’s creepy, I truly beg your pardon and I’m sorry. Television is built on aesthetics and photogenicity, I didn’t invent that game, I can only speak my truth.
And yes, I’m aware you can make an informed argument that all the mainstream media 24/7 cable news channels are part of a big scam, and that Fox News and MSNBC are dialectically involved in the same sort of public-indoctrination campaign. I’m talking about this more like one’s preference in movies (because cable news is, after all, essentially a genre of visual entertainment): Fox News is like TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN: idiotic script, visually nauseating, mean-spirited. CNN I’d say is analogous to ANCHORMAN: agreeable, sporadically funny, but on the whole, kinda dull. MSNBC, to me, is somewhere between STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT and STAR TREK: BEYOND: you’re getting the formula you know from before, yet there are moments of levity, a diverse cast of unusually well-spoken good-looking people, with occasional music interludes that don’t make you wanna throw up.
10. The Reverend Al Sharpton: Just to see him in his current gig as the host of Politics Nation, while remembering that he used to be as publicly flamboyant as Trump, minus the aggressive obnoxiousness. His preacher’s cadences repurposed towards recounting the mainstream news of the day, which we’ve already heard six times in the last hour’s programming, but not yet in the Rev’s regal baritone. Second acts in American lives, indeed.
9. Nicolle Wallace: A self-admitted rom-com nerd, Wallace’s role as the “non-practicing Republican” is an important perspective, regardless of how one feels about people who have ever been a Republican. Her daily hour of Deadline: White House is somehow the most brightly-lit of all the regular MSNBC programming; I appreciate how she lets her guests run loose and jokey, and she has that kind of open and infectious laugh which, in its own special telegenic way, lights up a room.
8. Ali Velshi: Another totally low-key witty guy, reigning it in ‘cos one-liners are not his principal job, but he gets them in there when time allows. And there’s just something really cute-yet-gruff about him. (Ari Melber also a cutie, not gonna lie.)
7. Joy Reid really has a way with a phrase, and her skill with spinning segues and interrelations between disparate stories is a beautiful sight to behold, rivalled only by Maddow in storytelling craft. At the risk of pigeonholing her based on her NAME, she also manages to deliver even the most terrible news with an underlying optimistic lilt to her voice that suggests, well, innate joy. I find any joie de vivre in the face of the steady-state Trump disaster an awfully reassuring resource.
6. Mika Brzezinski is, one could argue, the “acquired taste” one amidst the MSNBC host cohort: her delivery, perspective, and sense of humor are often acerbic and verging on mean. All those distinctive quirks are expertly exaggerated by Kate McKinnon’s impersonation of her on SNL, in which McKinnon fires off hyper-accurate in-jokes of physicality that can only land with true MSNBC nerds and the New Yorkiest of New York people. Most importantly, Ms. Absurd-Number-Of-Zs-In-Her-Last-Name has that morning-show-voice superpower, where she could be languidly reading the fine print of a parking ticket, and somehow it would not disturb your ability to begin your day.
5. Hallie Jackson talks fast and opts for an appealing mix of street-smart and book-smart vocabulary. She doesn’t digress for commentary as much as some of her colleagues, her M.O. is more about locking onto the lead and asking the possibly-uncomfortable question. And she’s magnetically beautiful, and always seems to be at Energy Level 10.5 out of 10; I dunno if she’s constantly caffeinated because of working the odd hours of a journalist, or if that is just her natural demeanor.
4. I know Brian Williams has had his share of scandal (I saw it on the news about the news guy!), but again, we’re just grading people on the basis of TV Performance Quality here, not Moral Infallibility. I dunno, call me old-fashioned, I just find Brian Williams to be a sexy dude. I have literally LOL’ed at his bone-dry wit on many an 11th Hour.
3. Rachel Maddow – Maddow might be the strongest brand on MSNBC in terms of ratings and name-recognition, and it’s not for nothing: she’s a uniquely absorbing storyteller, and just darned attractive when she’s waving her hands around, as if conducting orchestral swells out of the anecdotes she’s interweaving. I suggest watching this pretty extraordinary clip of tonight’s interview with South Bend Mayor/Presidential Candidate Pete Buttigieg, one openly gay public figure speaking to another. And then there was this moment in the earlier days of the neverending border crisis, which I highlight, not to fuel any stereotypes of liberal media types as soft-hearted weirdos who cry, but rather to pin down the ineffable quality that makes a TV person really super-crushable; I mean, they’re all good-looking, they’re all cosmeticized for camera, that stuff is all minimum-standard-requirement for being on the teevee. And then, among those, there are people who will grant the camera access to the unfiltered emotional content of the thing that is happening (to borrow Bruce Lee’s phrase). And now and then, infused with absolute professionalism and decency, Maddow lets this happen:
2. Chris Hayes is a funny guy who seems like sort of a nerd; and that is what I consider to be f–kin’ hawt, okay? His slightly snide delivery is as off-kilter to some people as it is irresistible catnip to folks like me. And, of this listicle, he’s the only one I’ve actually seen live in person, two weeks ago at the Green New Deal special event with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who, in the telegenicity department, is no slouch herself. (At this point, AOC’s crushworthy and nerdtastic traits are expansive enough to merit their own article, which, golly gee, I have already written about over at The Nerds Of Color.)
1. Stephanie Ruhle – It is really hard to arrive at a No. 1, both because of the given arbitrariness and my totally excessive intake of MSNBC programming; and what kind of weirdo has TEN TV News crushes, anyway? But for the sake of creating a non-coveted award, I gotta say, the Most Crushable Person on MSNBC is Stephanie Ruhle, co-host of Velshi & Ruhle. And of course it’s in no small part because she’s Jersey-sassy, she’s pretty, she can be funny AF and as nakedly emotional as Maddow; but the way I fall really hard for Stephanie Ruhle is contained in this brief segment from November 2017, during the Roy-Moore-For-Alabama-Senator Special Crisis that thankfully ended in favor of the non-pedophile; V&R are interviewing one of Roy Moore’s lawyers, who, with zero prompting, reveals himself to be the exact kind of racist dickface you’d imagine would be friends with Roy Moore. He comments on Ali Velshi’s racial background in a condescending non-sensical way (which, btw, racist dickfaces often do towards People of Color, unaware of the no-win social bind it backs us into). Velshi is clearly uncomfortable (because again, to accept is to accept racism, and to retort is to be an uppity POC, thus, no-win situation) and then Ruhle comes to the rescue, as uniquely she can in this context, because she’s got white woman magic, she shares the anchorperson authority, and she’s got her co-host’s back in the face of obvious racist dickfaceness.
It’s a little awkward to watch, but it’s a textbook move as far as Being A Good Ally And Friend, and it’s the main reason I heart Stephanie Ruhle.
Honorable mentions include field reporters and frequent panelists for whom I maintain a benign feeling of twitterpatedness: Chuck Rosenberg (DAMN that guy is sexy), Chris Jansing, (DAMN her speaking voice is awesome) Yamiche Alcindor, Katy Tur, Betsy Woodruff, Natasha Bertrand (The comic-book scribe in me fantasizes that Woodruff & Bertrand will soon co-byline a Trump-ending exclusive and be rebranded Woodtrand, in honor of “Woodstein,” the chimeric nickname for Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the famous WaPo reporters of All The President’s Men), Cynthia Alksne, Joyce Vance, Barbara McQuade, Maya Wiley, Jonathan Lemire, John Meacham, and of course Dominic Chu from CNBC, just ‘cause we Asian-American Dominics gotta stick together.