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Stephanopoulos: This ain't working so far



It's  terribly terribly unfair to review a man only two, three days into his new gig.
 But who said blogs were supposed to be fair?

 The simple fact here seems inescapable though, to anyone with two eyes and a lifetime spent with morning TV. But so far, just - as I mentioned, three days in - George Stephanopoulos is not working as the new host of "GMA."

 I suppose I should add for clarity, not working for "me," but that seems kind of redundant.

 The problem is difficult to define, so bear with me. But to an extent, it's all the stuff I've noticed with Stephanopoulos over the years - stuff now confined and dramatically magnified in the morning TV hothouse. He is a rarefied personality - a masters degree in theology from Balliol kind of personality, a policy wonk who turned on his former master kind of personality, a highly ambitious kind of personality that you known damned well won't be happy riding this honky tonk train for too long.

 That kind of personality.
 I give him a year.

 I could be wrong.

 I often am.

 But I don't think I am here.

  What's the problem?
Let's begin with the obvious. This is morning TV. Morning TV shows work this way:  The first half-hour is typically kind of sober - catching up with the news from over night and so on. There might be a heavy DC piece in the mix followed by the story about the missing girl in name-a-state, followed by the latest celebrity tribulations of name-a-celeb. Then the weather.

Then an interview - maybe light, maybe hard, depending on the morning.

 It's all gotta move reasonably fast because people first thing in the morning are moving reasonably fast.

 They don't stand there in front of the TV, while the clock is ticking and the school bus is honking outside, pausing to ruminate about what the anchor is saying on TV, or penetrate impenetrable DC babblespeak.

 They want some chatter, and news and some happy talk, and that's it.

 But what is "GMA" doing? Playing to George's strengths - so far.

He gets the "big" interview with the governator who's in Denmark, or Howard Dean, who talks - endlessly - about policy rigamarole in DC.

  " know better than most..." Dean said to him this morning.

 He actually said that - inferring, which is the last thing viewers or I imagine George wants to be inferred, that -  "oh, you're an inside-the-beltway policy guy just like me, George."

  By the way, no news came out of this interview.

  Here's another impression I've long held about Steph
- as a broadcaster, he hasn't done the rough and tumble of other broadcasters. He hasn't stood out in the snow, in the middle of the night, with the stick mic freezing in his hand, waiting for someone who's gonna tell him, "no comment" - while getting jostled by dozens of cameras, or having the legman for the National Enquirer, also there for the same witless story, stand on his shoes to get a better view.

  In other words, he hasn't put in his dues - like Robin Roberts, or Matt, or Meredith, or Charlie or Diane before him.

 Yes, Diane Sawyer. She was a brainy D.C. policy drone too once many many years ago - and transformed herself the hard way. Yeah, sure, she sucked up to Bill Paley, and made millions, but she also worked as hard as anyone else on the planet to chase stories, and bug people, and ask Marla Maples embarrassing questions, and do all the other grubby stuff you gotta do as an aspiring TV journalist.
 She earned her spurs - the hard way, and viewers knew it.

 George? No.

 He's cool. Unapproachable. A little snobby. He's too good, too smart, too classy to interview one of Tiger Woods' tootsies.

 No, you can almost hear him say - "let Robin do that."

  I gotta move on, people. I've got a busy day. Before I do, though, quick word of advice to George - get into the mudpit. This is morning TV - not church. Don't sacrifice your dignity. Diane and Charlie didn't. You don't have to either.

 But loosen up. Do the celebrity interview. Do a lot of 'em. Talk to the tootsie. Believe me - viewers are infinitely more interested in that story. Get out on the street. Find out what the real people are like. Get on the phone, and fight hard for interviews - big interviews and scoops that'll make Matt Lauer weep when you get them. Laugh every now and then. You've got a nice laugh. Try to make your wonderful colleague- Robin Roberts - a little more comfortable.

 She looks absolutely miserable so far.

 There's hope. There's time. You can do this, George. You'd better.

  Because over at "Today," they're cheering.



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