Unlike my snobbish colleagues Allison and The Other Charlotte, I couldn’t wait to watch Katie last night. Yes, your life probably has to be pretty empty if you found yourself saying “only six and a half more hours” around noon yesterday.
If I were one of those folks who’d been enraptured over the notion of the First Female Solo Anchor on a Major Network, here is a question I’d be asking myself: What does it mean that Katie’s debut coincided with an entirely new kind of news broadcast: the news-less news broadcast?
CBS News last night seemed to be pioneering a news show for those who simply can’t wait much longer for Access Hollywood or E! Entertainment to begin. These are shows that traditionally follow the news rather than overlapping with it. I have a hard time believing the grey beards who still tune into CBS want this. The lowest point (no second lowest point, no third lowest point-well, there was lots of competition for lowest low point) was a promo of Vanity Fair magazine’s exclusive photos of Suri Cruise. Katie did actually say Yessiree to rhyme with Suri.
Katie was reasonably businesslike, but she didn’t have much to work with last night. I also find her harder to take when she is not being perky than when she is. There is something distracting and arduous about watching Katie do the evening news. (Should Mary Hartman have been the first woman instead of Katie?)
In fairness, the show did begin with what could have been a serious story, Lara Logan’s visit to Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. But the report, preceded by the inevitable casualty figures of U.S. soldiers and the Taliban fighters, was a feature and had no up-to-the-minute news.
Tom Shales had the best take on the Lara Logan segment:
“The real purpose of this report was to show off Lara Logan, the intensely telegenic reporter who serves as foreign correspondent. She went undercover in Afghanistan, much as Rather had done many many years ago. But as a woman, Logan said, her Taliban hosts ‘insisted I cover everything but my eyes.’
“The story was in fact largely about her — about how dangerous it was to do the story, about what a big, ‘unprecedented’ exclusive it was (Brian Ross seemed to have much the same story on ABC’s ‘World News Tonight’ with Charles Gibson) and how she had to tippy-toe away from the camp through a minefield, led by a guide.”
But who needs news on Girl News Tonight?
The broadcast brushed past the breaking news of the day for an anti-Bush, knee-to-knee interview with New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, who nearly Katied the host to death, a segment on a man who goes to orphanages and gives the orphans portraits of themselves-unlike the orphans the young man who has undertaken this great humanitarian enterprise still lives at home with his parents-and Morgan Spurlock speaking his “mind” in a new segment called “free speech.” (It may be Freespeech or freeSpeech-they had done something funny with the graphics.)
Spurlock, who became a whopper eating Whoppers to make “Supersize Me,” is against uncivilized discourse in public life. Wow! There were shots of wrestlers while he made this revelation. (I notice he’s taken off a lot of weight but still could use some help selecting a shirt and tie.)
I must defer to Shales on this segment, too:
“Couric was standing again to introduce ‘something new,’ which turned out to be the oldest idea in television: Have some well-known or obscure blowhard pop up and do a rant into the camera.”
All in all, it’s a new day for TV news. Anne Althouse did a fine job of live-blogging last night. A satire site has the final word:
“Hello and welcome to the CBS Evening News for Tuesday, September 5, 2006. I’m Katie Couric.
“Another car bomb went off in downtown Baghdad today, marking a further escalation in the violence that has plagued the country over the past three years. There is still no official word on how survivors of the bombing feel about the Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes baby.
“A new CBS Evening News poll released today shows further bad news for President Bush. Only 38 percent of those surveyed gave the president a favorable rating for his handling of the Paris Hilton – Nicole Richie dispute.
“Auto industry analysts forecast even further layoffs in Detroit during the coming months. A spokeswoman for Lindsay Lohan says the singer has no comment at this time….”