For the past six decades, I’ve shared morning coffee with Cordic & Company, Jack Bogut, O’Brien and Garry, Jimmy & Steve, Quinn & Banana and Pete Povich. My brief encounters with Matt & Katie and other television network morning show hosts occurred mostly during vacations, when clouds and miles blocked out my radio pals.
Those fleeting glances at the TV, though, were more than enough to convince me that “morning news shows” is a misnomer. Diet updates, 100th birthday notices and celebrity interviews hardly qualify as “news you need” information. And I often wondered what downtown neighbors thought of those blaring street concerts by singers who most certainly were out of their element at 8:45 in the morning. I eventually concluded that, instead of being subjected to rising before noon, the sometimes-hoarse performers simply made the concert the tail end of a very long night.
While radio continues to provide my 6:30 a.m. wake up call, one of retirement’s little luxuries is a daily half-hour of back-deck nirvana – a coffee, this newspaper and a morning breeze. Sometime last November, though, I necessarily gravitated to the living room and inevitably, a curious click to “The Today Show,” which I heard was losing ground to ABC’s “Good Morning America.” I completely understand why “Today” is slipping; it’s just being overtaken by the wrong competitor.
Evidently, the three network programs no longer qualify as must-see TV. In the most recent ratings, “Good Morning America” was in front with 4.8 million viewers, followed by “Today’s” 4 million sets of eyes and “CBS This Morning’s” paltry 2.8 million fans. That’s hardly a mandate for any of the shows to continue, but I think “Today” should be especially embarrassed, as its network has the top late-night program – by far – with “The Tonight Show.” In other words, groggy viewers are deliberately tuning out “Today” in the morning.
Choosing a compatible morning show is akin to determining a favorite morning coffee, newspaper or radio program. It’s a personal choice. And “CBS This Morning” is mine.
For the first 15 minutes, all three network shows concentrate on news. ABC and NBC take an “all the news that fits” approach, while CBS initiates with a series of clips called, “Eye-opener: Your World in 90 Seconds,” then offers in-depth reporting on a few stories. Last Wednesday, it devoted almost seven minutes to the grounding of flights to Tel-Aviv before moving on to five minutes on the aftermath of Flight 17. ABC and NBC covered both stories, but also incorporated other items into a news digest package.
Eighteen minutes into the program, NBC had already mentioned Kim Kardashian while ABC was promoting a “big announcement” from Ryan Seacrest and Ariana Grande. CBS, meanwhile, was discussing a possible sale of CNN, Apple earnings, and TV news propaganda in the Kremlin.
It’s understandable why CBS lags in the ratings. It’s a mostly serious news show with few fluffy features and virtually no catering to young demographics. ABC and NBC, however, are like a double dose of colored cotton candy – flashy presentation with little substance. And all that sugary content – celebrity interviews, social media rooms and teen pop stars – can’t possibly be good for you.
Is it really news that “Today” filled several blocks of New York City with fans of Five Seconds of Summer for a short concert? Or is that created news?
And how loud was that groan at ABC’s report that beetles are killing the “Beatle tree” (dedicated to George Harrison), which, we’re told, will be replaced by a pine tree in hopes the beetles will “Let It Be.” Really?
I could also mention a poll on ketchup vs. mustard on hot dogs (NBC) or a feature on a 3,000-square-foot closet (ABC), but you get the point.
Perhaps it’s the grumpy old man that I’ve become, but the incessant chatter between segments – often with hosts talking over each other – is extremely annoying, as is the often uncomfortable transition from tee-he-he to tragic news. And, no matter the shade, orange should not be the new color of morning newsroom decor.
The vote here is for “CBS This Morning.” To be fair, though, the ABC news ticker at the bottom of the screen is much easier to read. And, for all its softball-lobbing interviewing, NBC has a knack for keeping it honest. Last week, for instance, actor Dan Aykroyd said the on-again, off-again, “Ghostbusters III” should be in pre-production next spring. To which the interviewer replied with something like, “At least until tomorrow.”
Terry Hazlett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org