A great morning news host was born Monday. A potential legend in the trade, I tell you.
No, I don’t mean the hair-raisingly articulate governor’s bro, Chris Cuomo, who was the center of “New Day,” Jeff Zucker’s attempt to be competitive in the morning on the new network he’s now running, the habitually lost and searching CNN. (This is the network Cuomo described with incomparable eloquence, to media critic Howard Kurtz, as “America’s panic button,” the network we all turn to reflexively when a major story is happening in “real time” – when, for instance, a murdering terrorist in loose in the Boston suburbs after a horrible explosion that maimed, mutilated and killed people at the Boston Marathon.)
When breaking news happens, we may not stay with CNN very long but it’s where we always check in eventually – or at least that’s true for many of us.
But it has never been a player in the gruesomely remunerative morning news racket. That’s always been a “Today” vs. “Good Morning, America” brouhaha with CBS placing show and everyone else sharing the breakfasting also-rans.
But if you remember that on his resume, new CNN chief Zucker can list majordomo of the “Today Show” during its almost effortlessly dominant Katie-and-Matt era, it makes sense that a major endeavor of a managerial ego the size of Zucker’s would be making a statement on his old turf with a morning show.
There are, we are often told, staggering sums of money changing hands in morning TV. Whatever hits people’s eyes and ears along with their morning cereal, orange juice and protein bars is presumed to stick to their brainpans, which is why advertisers couldn’t possibly be more eager to get people’s attention then. You know – get to the lady of the house, especially, before she does her shopping.
It’s morning TV thinking that’s decades old.
So Monday was the premiere day for CNN’s “New Day,” in which Zucker’s search for bigger numbers has now given us a conventional news “family” a la “Today” and “Good Morning, America.”
The center was Chris Cuomo, late of GMA and a brilliantly articulate member of a gubernatorial family for which elocution and vocabulary are clearly consumed along with jars of baby pears.
Cuomo’s morning sidekicks – note the traditional guy sandwiched by two women – are beautiful blonde Kate Bolduan (pronounced “Bold-win”) of Indiana and warm, street smart Michaela Pereira, late of Los Angeles TV news. In order to serve them up to viewers on a barbecue platter as an “instant” family – as if they’d just moved next door – they actually filmed them at a weekend backyard barbecue, munching some rather wan-looking burgers and talking about themselves.
Bolduan called herself “kooky” and “loud.” Pereira vowed to Cuomo “she and I are going to gang up on you. It takes two of us to take on one of you.” (If you’ve ever heard Cuomo when he’s on a roll, you understand why.)
In case that wasn’t enough family life for you, we had Cuomo’s very real three preteen kids wishing Daddy luck on camera, including the oldest whom he didn’t get to drive to camp this year. Lest any cynics doubt the sincerity of his rue at that point, any idiot could see a real redness in Daddy Chris’ eyes at that point. And you can bet the farm, the emotion displayed was real.
Despite Pereira’s claim that they were “three wallflowers who don’t have much personality,” they clearly have enough to please any TV news consultant anywhere, which is why the whole “New Day” package looked like something assembled by a news consulting firm as a “sizzle reel” to sell to a network client who desperately wanted advice on how to get into the morning news racket with maximum profit.
Meanwhile, over at MSNBC – where Joe Scarborough’s “Morning Joe” has long been earning viewer points for eccentricity and kick-out-the-jams commentary for those who like Tabasco in their morning omelettes – the great new morning host who was born before our very eyes was, I confess, not really a host at all. He was a guest.
Russell Brand, to be exact, the long-haired cockney-accented rock maniac who came to plug his “Messiah Complex” comedy tour and stayed to take over the show with about as much hilarity as I’ve ever seen on bleary-eyed morning TV.
I am, as I’ve often mentioned, no fan of morning TV. I don’t care how many zillions are at stake in it. I’ve always found it a barbaric way to begin the morning. When I was a kid, I listened only to school closings on Clint Buehlman in the morning (and briefly after that to WBNY, the radio station that brought “Top 40” radio to Buffalo). That was about as much “entertainment” as anyone in my family tolerated over its morning orange juice and Cheerios.
Morning, it seems to me, is for reading and music and at least minimal family talk. If nothing else, it should be where everyone’s daily agenda should be fully understood to see where potential conflicts are – the after-school sports practice, for instance, that may conflict with everyone else’s hopes for dinner that night.
On the other hand, if morning TV were always was funny as Russell Brand was on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Monday, I’d never miss it.
Scarborough was off. Mika Brzezinski was presiding.
Brand, like any antic comedian, sat down and took over the show, doing lines relentlessly.
He knew a bunch of well-comported charmless stiffs without a presiding host when he saw one and did his best scandalized Brit bit.
It was wild.
At one point, when the show’s denizens on all sides of him discussed how to deal with his cheery disruptions, he interjected “you’re talking about me as if I’m not here, as if I’m an extraterrestrial.”
And then, when it came time to do the bumper to the final commercial, Brand looked straight into the camera with sarcasm through the roof and said, “America, you’re going to be OK. These are your trusted anchors.”
And then, the show in hopeless shambles, he had one final fillip for Brzezinski: “You’re ovulating.”
And then, to us all, he said, “My work is done here.”
And so it was.
A major pity, that.
What a way to start a morning.