A New 'Morning' On CBS, But Will It Work? CBS has revamped its morning show, which now has new hosts, a new set and a new focus: more hard news, less soft entertainment. TV critic David Bianculli says the new format works — as long as the network makes good on its news-oriented focus.
NPR logo

A New 'Morning' On CBS, But Will It Work?

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/144916831/144965676" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
A New 'Morning' On CBS, But Will It Work?

A New 'Morning' On CBS, But Will It Work?

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/144916831/144965676" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


The TV morning show was a national programming forum that began 60 years ago this week with the debut of a program that's still around and has long been dominant: "The Today Show" on NBC. But yesterday, CBS went back to the drawing board and revamped its own morning show, coming up with new hosts, a new set, and a new focus: More hard news, less soft entertainment. Our TV critic David Bianculli has watched the first 2 days of "CBS This Morning" and has this review.

DAVID BIANCULLI, BYLINE: There are three new hosts of "CBS This Morning", which was unveiled yesterday. One is Erica Hill, a holdover from "The Early Show," the previous program in the early-morning time slot. Another is Gayle King, still best known as Oprah Winfrey's best friend, who's here to handle most of the entertainment interviews. And the third, the pivot point, is Charlie Rose, brought over from PBS to give this new show an injection of instant respectability and seriousness.

But not even Charlie Rose can sell everything, including the show's new opening 90 second wrap-up of news and feature footage.


CHARLIE ROSE: But first, as we do every morning, we begin with a look at today's eye opener: your world in 90 seconds.

BIANCULLI: As we do every morning? Counting today you've been on the air twice. Traditions take a little longer to establish than that. Willard Scott saluting 100th birthdays, now that's a tradition. But the first hour of "CBS This Morning," in two days, has shown one thing already. It wants to take a little longer to cover stories and cover them from more than just one angle.

On today's show, political correspondent Jan Crawford reported on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's widely quoted statement about liking to fire people, but made sure to put both the remark, and the resultant publicity, in context.


JAN CRAWFORD: It was all about Mitt Romney, even when he bashed President Obama's healthcare reform law, saying people should have freedom to dump their insurance companies and choose another one if they wanted, a standard Republican line.

MITT ROMNEY: It means that if you don't like what they do, you can fire them. I like being able to fire people who provide services to me. If, you know, if someone doesn't give me the good service I need, I want to say that, you know, I'm going to go get somebody else to provide that service to me.

CRAWFORD: But all his rivals heard was this.

ROMNEY: I like being able to fire people.

CRAWFORD: That line about insurance companies taken completely out of context became the moment of the day.

BIANCULLI: Then within minutes, Charlie Rose was talking to CBS "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer and broached the same subject with him. Schieffer was comfortable enough with Rose, and honest enough, to chuckle about it.


ROSE: Let me talk about New Hampshire. We have seen upsets before in New Hampshire: Hillary Clinton 4 years ago. Is anything happening on the ground that might surprise us?

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, other than Mitt Romney looking for every way he can to try to lose and drive down his percentage of victory, I mean, yesterday this...


SCHIEFFER: ...I like to fire people, I mean, I guess the only thing worse you could say is in a time like this when people are out of work is that Herbert Hoover is my hero or something like that. I mean, it just boggles the mind. I mean, you know, his people are saying it was taken out of context but, you know, when people are out of work there are certain words you just avoid and saying I like to fire people is one of them whatever context that was taken in, and coming on the heels of saying a couple of times in my life I worried about getting a pink slip. You know, I mean, this is a multimillionaire who's the son of a multimillionaire. I think people here, you know, who try to go from paycheck to paycheck are wondering if that might be absolutely true.

BIANCULLI: In the early days and weeks, and even months, of a new talk or morning show, it takes a while to discover what's right. It's what's wrong that jumps out at you right away, and the only thing that jumps out in a bad way about "CBS This Morning" is that the approach, especially in hour two, isn't quite as serious, or as hard-news oriented as it might be. Here's Gayle King introducing one of today's segments.



JAY-Z: (Rapping) The most beautiful-est thing in this world...

GAYLE KING: That's the brand new song called "Glory" written by Jay-Z to express his joy over his newborn daughter Blue with Beyonce. But the song reveals that Beyonce had a miscarriage in the past. As you know, that's a tough subject for a lot of women to talk about and we're talking about it today.

BIANCULLI: The real test, I suppose, will come soon, when CBS starts rolling out its prime-time reality shows — its "Big Brothers," its "Survivors." In the past, those shows' losers have been paraded out the next day on CBS's morning show. In the future, if they aren't, then maybe the network really is serious about being serious.

But being serious and smart doesn't mean you can't do feature stories. Elsewhere on CBS, "60 Minutes" has been mixing hard and soft news, brilliantly, for decades — now there's a TV tradition. And even NBC's newest attempt at a prime-time newsmagazine, "Rock Center with Brian Williams," covers both ends of the spectrum very well.

In its first show of the new year, Brian Williams presented a wonderful little story about the cleanup crew at Times Square, whose work began as soon as the ball dropped on New Year's Eve. And to mark the transition, the NBC report selected the best possible music cue.


BRIAN WILLIAMS: And so here we go, all of us, into the breach with the men of sector three of the New York City Department of Sanitation as they made a clean sweep of the remnants of 2011.


UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting) Five, four, three, two, one.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We're New York's strongest. This is what we do. It's our turn now. Let's get in there and clean these streets. Let's go!


WILSON PICKETT: (Singing) I'm going to wait till the midnight hour...

BIANCULLI: Later, the piece topped even that piece of music by catching two street sweepers singing a late-night, Times Square a cappella variation of — what else? — "New York, New York."


UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing) I want to wake up in a city that never sleeps...

BIANCULLI: I love it. And if this push for more serious TV news shows — a push that includes The "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley," "Rock Center" and now ""CBS This Morning"" — is indeed a trend, then count me in.

DAVIES: David Bianculli is founder and editor of tvworthwatching.com and teaches TV and film history at Rowan University in New Jersey.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.