Jesse Jackson

Jackson running up and down the aisles of a studio audience with a microphone, shouting, ”Tax breaks for bisexualextraterrestrials — what do you think?”

Mercifully, this is not the case. In fact, in its opening weeks, Jesse Jackson is proving to be one of the most intelligently provocative shows around. For his debut, Jackson took a look at Mohawk Indians protesting the building of a golf course on their sacred burial ground in Oka, Quebec. As introductory background, Jackson used a filmed report anchored by Russell Means of the radical American Indian Movement. This program and its host make no effort to be objective; clearly, Jesse Jackson intends his hour-long show to be an alternative to conservative programming like Firing Line and The McLaughlin Group.

On his second show, Jackson discussed the ways in which proposed federal budget cuts would cripple the country’s student loan program. Again, this was a topic you don’t hear much about on television, and Jackson dealt with it in a calm, clear, yet passionately partisan way. The format is slightly awkward, with Jackson sitting at a table, his guests arrayed around him like ”The Last Supper.” There’s also a studio audience that never reacts to anything said. Jackson is still a little stiff as a host, unsure of when to interrupt a guest and make his own point, but so far, that stiffness is charming — quaintly polite.

As long as the ratings don’t force Jackson to do crasser subjects (”Today’s theme is ‘Killing Off thirtysomething Characters’: Keep Hope Alive!”), he’s already earned a regular place on TV. A-

Jesse Jackson
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