A new addition reminds us that our town is still king of the morning show
Over many years, Charlie Rose spent a tremendous number of hours in my bedroom. Before discovering the life-altering advantages of the DVR, I often ended my day with Rose on public TV. So his move two weeks ago to the CBS morning program sent my routine into confusion.
Rose, an official Man About Town, did not just bring a new table and passion for run-on sentences to CBS This Morning. He also came with a couple of new cohosts: Gayle King, Oprah’s official best friend, and Erica Hill, who is not actually new—she’s a holdover from the prevous incarnation of the CBS morning show. The flaws of her new cohosts make Hill look better every day.
All of this is important to me because I’m addicted to morning TV. These days, I bounce from the media monster Today to the chatty Good Day New York and the clubby Morning Joe, but I go way back. I was a little kid who knew who David Hartman was.
As a fan of fake intimacy, I like watching morning anchors pretend to like each other. They desperately try to create a sense of community, often copying each other along the way. They sometimes insist they are a “family,” even though in these families, the members get tossed around from show to show with disconcerting speed.
Also fun: watching high-profile talents pretend to be interested in the range of topics they tackle. If there was anything more compelling on American television in the last few decades than watching Diane Sawyer appear in cooking segments during her Good Morning America days, well, I missed it.
So This Morning is right up my alley. Rose is known in Manhattan and D.C. for being an A-list party guest. Watching him in the morning, all sluggish mien and dead eyes, seems simultaneously hilarious and scary. By the end of week one, he had such a bad cold that it was painful to watch. If he were still alive, Dr. Kevorkian would be on speed dial over at CBS.
The new show opened with a thoughtful 90-second review of the news, Eye Opener. Most of the attention during the premier week, though, went to King’s interview with Michelle Obama. She insisted she was looking forward to campaigning for her husband, but failed to come up with any reason anyone would support him. As usual, the disengaged first lady took a pass on getting involved in important political matters. This is not Eleanor Roosevelt we’re talking about.
It takes two, though, to come up with an interview this bad. King was obsequious in talking to someone she described as a friend. Dismissive of Jodi Kantor’s new book, The Obamas, King did not, so far as I recall, bother to mention the extent of her support for the first family. According to a quick trip to Fundrace.HuffingtonPost.com, one of my favorite websites, King gave thousands of dollars last year to Obama Victory Fund 2012.
Obviously, it’s a new era in American journalism. We don’t even pretend to be objective any longer. Fine. Objectivity never really existed, but fairness could. So could full disclosure. Yes, I’ve wondered whether and which candidates deserve my financial support. But did CBS News really need to send King to interview her buddy the same week it ran ads about taking a fresh, hard-news approach on This Morning?
Couldn’t Rose have done this interview? Sure, sometimes he answers questions he himself has asked, but he could probably have handled the assignment.
Ah, I’m being cranky. King has a certain game presence, and I’m one of 17 people nationally who watched the show she did on OWN. She’s a TV personality; being a newswoman would be a separate matter.
King is a natural at fake intimacy. Sometimes, though, news judgment is called for—especially when the bosses are bragging that they have it.
Christopher Moore is a writer living in Manhattan. He is available by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and is on Twitter
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