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Wed January 4, 2012
Will Charlie Rose Rise And Shine For CBS?
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's 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 its 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's 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 zagging entirely to its competitors zig. While Rose will anchor the 7 o'clock hour, at 8 the network will bring in Gayle King, who's best known for being Oprah's sidekick.
Why she's jumping out of the frying pan that is the OWN 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.