The recent bared-teeth snarlfest between Bill O'Reilly and Al Franken has provided the perfect antidote to the final dog days of summer. Never have two more deserving people found each other - just in time to make one look like a silly bully and the other a best-selling author.
The two have been embroiled over Franken's new book: "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right." The cover includes an unflattering photo of O'Reilly, who is, do we need reminding, the most popular anchor in cable TV.
In other words, he's world famous - and infamous for being an attack pundit - and Franken is well known mostly among aging fans of "Saturday Night Live," for which he has been a writer and actor. Despite Grammy and Emmy awards, best-selling books and a successful career as a political satirist, Franken doesn't have near the name recognition of O'Reilly.
But he is amusing, as long as you're not the one he's being amusing about.
O'Reilly, as a target and subject of an entire chapter (Chapter 13 is "Bill O'Reilly: Lying, Splotchy Bully"), is among those not amused by Franken and got Fox to seek an injunction against the book claiming that "fair and balanced" is O'Reilly's intellectual property.
A New York judge ruled last Friday that Fox's case was without merit and Franken can plunge ahead with his now-best-selling tirade.
Thanks to Fox and O'Reilly, Franken's book, which zillions of Americans never would have noticed otherwise, rocketed to No. 1 on Amazon's bestseller list from 489. And Fox and O'Reilly look like thin-skinned terriers who can dish it out but run tail tucked between legs when others respond in kind.
Bill, Bill, Bill, haven't you heard? It doesn't matter what they're saying as long as they're talking about you? Besides, let the little dogs whine. As contests go, this is like Spot scratching at the screen door while Rin Tin Tin lounges in a La-Z-Boy watching Lassie reruns and munching Bac-O bits.
The truth is, no one cares what Franken thinks about O'Reilly or what "The O'Reilly Factor" spins or unspins about world events.
If we watch television yak shows - or read mean-spirited, close-to-the-bone books - it's not for policy analysis. How much insight can one glean from 30 minutes or an hour of flush-faced confrontation among pundits mostly concerned with selling their books and increasing their speaking fees?
It's for flavah, honey. Infotainment. A break from commercials and a reaffirmation of the aphorism that familiarity breeds contempt.