Critics Review ‘Conventional,’ ‘Credible,’ And ‘Skillfully Packaged’ Al Jazeera America

By Alex Weprin Comment

Day one of Al Jazeera America is in the books, and veteran TV critics are weighing in on the programming from the launch. While there are still plenty of kinks to work out, day one of a channel often sets the tone, even if changes do — and they will — come down the line.

The Baltimore Sun‘s David Zurawik was pleased with the channel’s primetime coverage, calling it “solidly-reported and skillfully packaged”: “The newscast feels more like the BBC than any of the major American networks or cable channels — and I mean that in a good way. Only, the visuals are a lot better on Al Jazeera. Some of the camera work almost takes your breath away.”

The Washington Post‘s Paul Farhi said the channel sometimes looked conventional: “The other stories also were presented without gimmickry. If anything, AJA was behind the curve. The detention of reporter Glenn Greenwald’s partner by anti-terrorism authorities in London aired more than 24 hours after the news broke; a story on Kodak’s retrenchment missed some breaking news about the company winning court approval for its plan to emerge from bankruptcy protection.”

Variety‘s Brian Lowry compared it to PBS: “Simply put, the approach was about as close to PBS tonally as you’re apt to find in the commercial space, with nary a wacky human-interest or feel-good story to be found in either of those central shows. Even the sports segment, presented by Michael Eaves, dealt with steroids in baseball.”

The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove gave it a mixed review: “While AJAM’s debut was competent and relatively glitch-free, the pace was slow, the production values were plodding and predictable, and the presentation relied heavily on yakking, and more yakking, straight to camera (with the notable exception of the Faultlines takedown of Walmart and Gap).”