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On Monday, CBS This Morning made its debut with anchors Gayle King, Charlie Rose and Erica Hill. The network hopes its revamped, third-rated morning-show — and fresh new format — will make tougher competition for NBC’s top-ranked Today show and ABC’s Good Morning America.
“Welcome to the first of what we hope will be many mornings,” Rose remarked, while King said: “Today feels like the first day of school. … I hope we get good grades.”
Here’s what TV and media critics have to say about the debut:
“For years, CBS News officials have pitched each successive version of the network’s morning show as new and improved, and most were not. With the new version of ‘CBS This Morning’ they actually stayed true to their word,” observed The New York Daily News‘ Richard Huff.
“Perfect? No. But it looked dramatically better and was far meatier than the last version, which is a huge deal,” Huff said, noting an improvement in design (darker colors versus the light blues, and exposed brick) and co-host seating arrangement (a round glass table replaces a standard panel).
“If CBS This Morning wants to be taken seriously, it needs to fix that set, which looks like the collateral damage from a war between HGTV designers and Star Trek: The Next Generation nerds,” joked the Boston Herald‘s Mark Perigard.
Meanwhile, the program’s new features include “Eye Opener,” which edits the top news stories down into 90-second video snippets; Monday’s coverage included a pre-taped sitdown with GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, a live one with Julianna Margulies (star of the CBS drama The Good Wife) and Dick Van Dyke, an ex-CBS morning-show anchor. (Guests didn’t wait in a green room: the set has a glass room wherein viewers can catch the action backstage.)
“First in-your-face reminder of the morning show wars: #1 ‘Today’ gets Newt Gingrich live; #3 CBS taped Newt in advance,” tweeted the New York Times‘ Brian Stelter, referring to Matt Lauer‘s real-time Gingrich interview on Monday. Stelter noted that CBS is bringing on actor Mark Walhlberg for Tuesday’s broadcast — NBC talked to him today.
Regarding camera angles: “Most distracting, whenever Rose interviewed anyone, say, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, the cameras captured an array of videoscreens behind Rose — showing his guest slanted sideways at a vertigo-inducing 90-degree angle,” Perigard said.
Another hot topic from the show show tagline is “putting the news back in morning news”: Beyonce and Jay-Z‘s new baby daughter, Blue Ivy Carter, born Saturday in New York City. (“It’s been called a huge Twitter topic that their Twitter friends have been tweeting,” Rose said, perhaps underscoring his possible lack of social-media awareness.)
“Going in, there were questions about whether Rose could be a morning anchor,” said Huff. “Based on one show it would be fair to say yes, especially in the new format. Indeed, he dominated the in-studio interviews with CBS’ Norah O’Donnell, Scott Pelley and Armen Keteyian, leaving Hill as a bit player. Hill was more active, though, later in the show when King took over and the topic turned to Kate Middleton’s 30th birthday.”
Entertainment Weekly‘s Ken Tucker noted that “all three hosts seemed perfectly at ease and confident negotiating the various roles required on a morning show. I’d encourage more interaction among them, and the show clearly needs to add a supporting character in the tradition of Al Roker to deliver both the weather and a few zingers for the three hosts to chuckle over.”
James Poniewozik of Time magazine, saying he would give the show a chance and reserve judgment until later, could not help but observe the evening-hour tone enhanced by Rose’s presence.
“King has a brighter demeanor and came on her first show wearing what she said was her favorite color, mustard yellow. (Introduced by Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love,” a reference, I’m guessing, to the singer’s new baby and not a comment on the host.),” he said. “Rose wore his standard business suit and hooded cocktail-hour gaze and is ineffably associated with the wee hours from his years in PBS late-night; it feels like the light must automatically dim 25% when he walks into a room.”
Perigard had harsh final words for the broadcast, writing: “If CBS This Morning is going to be a player in the daytime TV wars, it has to get ahead of the news, not follow it.”
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