Hosts of "CBS This Morning" are, from left, Erica Hill, Gayle King and Charlie Rose. (Nov. 15, 2011)
"CBS This Morning" launched a couple of hours ago as the latest iteration in a long line of iterations, and allow me to take this opportunity to wish the newcomer all the best in the year or years to come.
Now pleasantries, dispensed, the question: What the heck was that about?
Wasn't this supposed to be the "smart choice," a lean mean breakfast cereal in stark contrast to the heart-attack-inducing, artery-clogging, sugar-loaded alternatives on NBC and ABC?
Wasn't this supposed to be brain food for a starved soul -- a kind of high road less taken show that would tell people what they really need to know as opposed to what they really don't need to know?
First impression? Glad you asked. It's not a good one.
Look, I know this business is hard, and I know that there's a long history here, but why would you get a high-toned guy like Charlie Rose and force him -- on his first day -- to engage in the cheesiest most corruptible and soul-depleting exercise know to modern television, namely network cross-promotion -- in this instance an embarrassing and profoundly uninformative interview with Julianna Margulies?
Couldn't his producer have at least held off a day, and then sprung it on him, say, tomorrow: "Oh Charlie, by the way, as part of this job you have to help sell other stuff on the network . . ."
Why would they close with a story on Dick Van Dyke, which was putatively part of this opening day package simply because he briefly anchored a CBS morning show like this one over 57 years ago and which he has been trying to forget about ever since? (And aren't you just reminding viewers of the long history of abject failure?)
Why would you bring in Melissa Etheridge to discuss Beyonce's new baby? Joni Mitchell wasn't available? (Why? Why? WHY?!)
Why would you confuse viewers by having one anchor on the set at one point, and then the anchor suddenly disappearing after a commercial break? Charlie, for example, disappeared immediately after the Margulies chat -- maybe he had to go to the bathroom to throw up.
Why would you keep going to local stations over and over and over and over again for weather -- when this show was designed to be hermetically sealed from the stupidest form of TV, namely local anchor break-ins telling you it's cloudy outside?
Finally, this last why: Why would you stuff your launch with so many commercials, dozens and dozens and dozens of them, all crammed into endless pods, when you are so desperately trying to get people to sample this new show and not force them to jump to other network shows, which of course they did?
OK, I'm done with my rant. There were some good things -- it does seem to be serious at the top, and that cleverly titled "Eye Opener" is smartly produced, and there was a pretty good Armen Keteyian piece on bowl game shenanigans -- but there were simply not enough good things and far too many bad things.
This effort, if it is to succeed at long last, must do what it has promised to do: Offer something that does not replicate what the other guys have, but -- in fact -- will make viewers want to come back the next day and the day after that.
Believe me CBS: There are people out there who want intelligent, serious, thoughtful morning TV that actually pauses to explain complicated stories, and refuses -- absolutely refuses -- to even mention Beyonce's baby because every other media outlet on the planet is doing that story.
They want a refuge from the noise, and proof that a certain degree of dignity, intelligence and sobriety does exist on TV between the hours of 7 and 9 a.m. They want it and they expect it -- especially when you have told them they will get it.
So let me end this first-day review -- and as you can tell, it's a pan -- with a helpful suggestion: Please give viewers what you promised.
Meanwhile, here's "Eye Opener," again.
More: Is CBS conceding?