I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it in recent memory.
At the end of Thursday morning’s newscast, Channel 2’s “Daybreak” team of Melissa Holmes, John Beard, Andy Parker and some off-camera personnel brought out noisemakers and a cake for a New Year’s Eve-like celebration after the station hit 100,000 likes on Facebook.
The comical celebration of the achievement followed a very bad singing performance of “Bad to the Bone” by Kevin O’Neill for charity at 97 Rock, where he was promoting the radio station’s annual Make-a-Wish fundraiser.
Earlier, Holmes sang a song from “Little Mermaid” to the accompaniment of laughs from Beard and Parker.
Undoubtedly, many journalists would cringe at this display – of music and TV family love.
Those happy, over-the-top TV moments couldn’t have been more of a contrast to the seriousness offered that morning by the new Channel 4 “Wake Up!” team of Teresa Weakley, Jordan Williams and Todd Santos.
It is time to assess the morning race, which has had more changes than the Bills secondary in the last month. Third-place Channel 7 premiered “Good Morning” with its new young morning team of Tiffany Lundberg and Cole Heath a few weeks before Channel 4 introduced Santos and Weakley.
In Weakley’s first week, things became verrry interesting. Channel 4 won the week in the morning ratings. But early in the second week, Channel 2 was laughing its way back to a comfortable No. 1.
Channel 2 has a couple of significant advantages: Western New Yorkers hate change, and that is especially true in the morning.
“Daybreak” was forced to make a co-anchor switch a year ago when Jodi Johnston left to work in corporate America. But in turning to Holmes, it replaced one Western New Yorker with another one. Unquestionably, having local products Holmes and Parker on in the morning is an advantage. And Beard has been around here long enough to seem like a native.
As a result, Channel 2’s morning team seems like one big happy family.
Meanwhile, the new Channel 4 and Channel 7 teams seem like strangers who are trying to get to know each other as the community gets to know them.
The new anchors are out-of-towners trying to convince viewers instantly that they love chicken wings, local theater and the Bills and Sabres as much as their viewers do. It isn’t an easy sell.
Channel 7’s new anchors had to be impressive instantly to make anyone change the channel. The station couldn’t afford the early stumbles made by Heath, who has a very low-key personality. Lundberg is more lively. She has introduced a segment called “Tiffany’s Trivia” to try and get audience involvement. On Thursday, the silly multiple choice question involved the name of the firefly in the 2009 movie “The Princess and the Frog.” (Off of her singing performance, I’m guessing Holmes would have known the answer.)
Despite the changes, “Good Morning” remains the least interesting and thorough of the three morning shows, so it isn’t surprising its ratings are in the same ballpark of its former morning program.
To make Western New Yorkers feel like he is one of them, Channel 4’s Santos smartly said on his first broadcast that he is married to a local woman and he has been coming here for 15 years. He has been impressive, though he talks faster than C.J. Spiller runs in the open field.
Weakley arrived from Youngstown, Ohio, a week after Santos and in her first “Wake Up!” appearance described herself in a way I could never have done. After saying she was excited to be up early in the morning, Weakley added, “I’m trying to stay perky here.”
Katie Couric hated being described as “perky.” A male critic can’t use the word without appearing to be condescending. But since Weakley brought it up, I believe it is OK to say she was perky in her debut and remains so.
She also smiles a lot, is enthusiastic, comfortable, friendly, attractive (this is TV after all), louder than any alarm clock and as talkative as any anchor here. She was so talkative I wondered why she apparently pretended not to hear me a while back when I called her at her former Youngstown, Ohio, station to confirm she was hired by Channel 4. After all, she doesn’t seem like she would turn down any opportunity to talk. (I should add that her voice is less appealing the more she talks.)
Weakley seemed to be channeling WGRZ-TV’s Maryalice Demler as she often followed stories or comments from colleagues or interview subjects by adding her two cents. When a man said he witnessed a woman crying after an airplane scare, Weakley told the audience: “I would have been crying, too.”
When a report aired about Diana Nyad’s successful swim from Cuba to Key West, Weakley said her post-swim plans would have been different than Nyad’s: “I would be in bed.”
Thankfully, Weakley has calmed down since her debut, though she still says things like “I imagine it was terrifying” after stories that don’t need anchor confirmation.
Channel 4’s Extreme Morning Makeover also includes reports from Nalina Shapiro and Anthony Congi, who do good work and seem to have been required to say “Hello, Teresa” before every story to remind viewers who she is.
I’m not sure how Williams fits in with the Extreme Makeover. He is the kind of serious anchor Channel 4 viewers have come to expect. It will be interesting to see if he and Weakley can develop any “family” chemistry.
Once Weakley takes the perky down a notch, I’m pretty sure things will go much more swimmingly for Channel 4.
Channel 4 might consider adding more happiness and fun to the morning mix. It has lightened up on occasion, airing silly viral videos. But compared to “Daybreak,” “Wake Up!” is about as warm and friendly as John Boehner.
The funny thing is that O’Neill started his TV career at Channel 4. His light features were never replaced. Channel 4 is selling seriousness in the morning, not humor or the product tests and Facebook likes that Channel 2 loves so much.
It is a clear choice. Channel 2’s family laugh-fest can get annoying but it is effective. So I may have a better chance of learning the lyrics to the “Little Mermaid” than Channel 4 has of having a “Daybreak”-like celebration any time soon.