11:41am

Wed January 4, 2012
Opinion

Will Charlie Rose Rise And Shine For CBS?

Originally published on Wed January 4, 2012 4:19 pm

Andrew Wallenstein is an editor at Variety.

Charlie Rose may very well be the best interviewer on the planet. If there's something important in the news, chances are he has left his mark on the story — from the events unfolding in North Korea to the modern relevance of Shakespeare.

It's not the kind of conversation you'd expect to see on morning TV, where Matt Lauer is better known for cracking wise with Russell Brand or cracking eggs alongside Paula Deen. However, when CBS relaunches its morning show Jan. 9, veteran newsman Charlie Rose will be in the anchor chair.

Hiring someone like Rose is CBS' way of signaling that it's taking a more serious tack each morning than its competitors. And why not? Despite relaunch after relaunch, the program has been trailing Today and Good Morning America for 30 years.

So if you can't beat 'em, why not try something distinctly different instead of offering up yet another pale imitation? So here comes Rose, and out goes the usual trappings of morning TV: the jolly weatherman, the in-studio kitchen.

Mock all that if you want, but it has been a winning formula for NBC and ABC for a long time. CBS is flying in the face of this odd hybrid of information and fluff we've been conditioned to expect for decades from morning TV.

Not that CBS is zagging entirely to its competitors' zig. While Rose will anchor the 7 o'clock hour, at 8 a.m. the network will bring in Gayle King, who is best known for being Oprah's sidekick.

Why she's jumping out of the frying pan that is OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, into the fire at CBS only her agent can explain. Equally incomprehensible is the schizophrenic shift in tone that will come from sober analysis at 7 to peppy patter from King an hour later.

It's strange for CBS to get high-minded at a time when the Today show is reportedly going in the other direction. Given Lauer may exit at the end of his contract this year, the network is talking to Ryan Seacrest.

I respect any network in this day and age for doing something that doesn't contribute to the continual dumbing-down of America, but this strategy is a Hail Mary pass headed out of bounds. There's no way it's going to work, but it would be great if it did.

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Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

CBS is relaunching its morning television show on Monday with veteran newsman Charlie Rose. It's a bold move. Rose's cerebral high brow approach will set CBS apart from the chatty, breezy style of "The Today Show" and "Good Morning America."

Commentator Andrew Wallenstein says the network is shaking things up because they're a little desperate.

ANDREW WALLENSTEIN, BYLINE: Charlie Rose may very well be the best interviewer on the planet. If there's something important in the news, chances are he's left his mark on the story.

CHARLIE ROSE: Does this have any political implications as to how China sees itself? Is this going to be one of those years in which conservatives will say, we didn't have one candidate like Ronald Regan to coalesce around? Tell me what you want people to know about Dr. King.

WALLENSTEIN: Rose's style is not the kind you'd expect to see on morning TV. Matt Lauer is better known for cracking wise with Russell Brand or cracking eggs alongside Paula Deen.

MATT LAUER: You do buttermilk mashed potatoes. Why do you like buttermilk in so many recipes?

PAULA DEEN: Well, the buttermilk just gives it a little tang, just a little bite.

WALLENSTEIN: You won't be seeing an in-studio kitchen or even a jolly weatherman on CBS's new show. That's because the network is taking a more serious tact than its competitors and they might as well try something different. Despite relaunch after relaunch, the program has been trailing "Today" and "Good Morning America" for 30 years.

But understand that what CBS is doing now runs counter to the fluff-filled formula that's driven morning TV for decades, not that CBS is zagging entirely to its competitors' zig. While Rose will anchor the seven o'clock hour, at eight the network will bring in Gayle King.

GAYLE KING: We did a story here recently on the show about Mondays because Mondays are the crankiest days for people.

WALLENSTEIN: She's best known for being Oprah's sidekick and she had her own show on Oprah's cable network.

KING: But you have something that your culture - what do you call it? Your culture Mondays? What is it called?

LAURA CHING: Looking forward to Mondays.

WALLENSTEIN: The OWN channel has been struggling since its launch. Why she's jumping out of the frying pan that is Oprah's network into the fire at CBS, only her agent can explain, but here's what I'd like CBS to explain: Why the schizophrenic shift in tone that will come from sober analysis at seven to peppy patter from King an hour later?

It's also strange for CBS to get high-minded at a time when "The Today Show" may be going in the other direction. With Lauer potentially leaving at the end of his contract this year, the network is reportedly talking to Ryan Seacrest.

(SOUNDBITE OF "AMERICAN IDOL" THEME)

RYAN SEACREST: Back here on "American Idol"...

WALLENSTEIN: Now, I respect any network in this day and age for doing something that doesn't contribute to the continual dumbing down of America, but this strategy is a Hail Mary pass headed out of bounds. There's no way it's going to work, but I sort of wish it would.

SIEGEL: Andrew Wallenstein is the TV editor of Variety.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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