Monday, February 9, 2015

Caesar Flickerman not real so NBC will stay with Brian Williams

Brian Williams, we’re told, is taking a break from delivering the news while he reflects on how his exaggerations have smeared his reputation.

Don’t you believe it.

I suspect he’s right now rehearsing a news variety program that will showcase his many diverse talents. It wouldn’t surprise me if it involves Brian playing a banjo.

Because the people who are right now weighing Williams’s fate are the same ones who encouraged him to become what he is.

They are the ones who urged him to go slow jam the news with Jimmy Fallon, to show off his comic timing on “30 Rock,” and to be the first and only network anchor to host SNL.

They are the ones who so blurred the lines of news and entertainment that Williams could no longer see there even was a line over which he could trip.

It’s sad, really. He was encouraged to be an entertainer and now he’s in trouble for being entertaining.

The thinking has been, I guess, that news of things like school shootings and ISIL beheadings will be easier for viewers to take if viewers have a handy recollection of the man delivering the news being funny with Tina Fey.

Anchors today are so desperate to appear they are not Ron Burgundy that they’ve all become Ron Burgundy.

I think it’s why so many people get their news from Jon Stewart. It’s all the absurdity of our current network and cable news programs without any of the holier-than-thou pretense.

Me? I remain a defiant traditionalist when it comes to news consumption. I read the local papers everyday and The New York Times whenever I can.

As for TV news, I’m satisfied with CBS network programming. I love Charlie and Norah in the morning partly, I’ll admit because the romantic in me suspects they’re in love (see link below). I think the best political host is Bob Schieffer. 

And Scott Pelley does a right-down-the-middle newscast.  What I like best about Pelley is how little I know about him.

Unlike Williams, I don’t know who his favorite football team is, if he likes NASCAR or if his children act in HBO shows I’ll never watch.

Pelley merely reads the news. In fact, his delivery is so perfectly neutral I expect he’d read a story about the world ending tomorrow with something like, “Global events are gathering to ensure the five-day forecast for your local weather won’t take as long as it usually does . . .”

So I’m old-fashioned. My opinions would throw off the survey curves of the audience sought by NBC or any of the too-obnoxious-to-watch political networks.

But given trends that started with Walter Cronkite and have spiraled through to Anderson Cooper, it’s easy to predict the future face of broadcast news.

It’s Caesar Flickerman!

He’s the glib, blue-haired dandy who does such a compelling job as host/anchor of “The Hunger Games.”

He’s handsome, he winks, he intones, he chuckles, he preens.

I sense he checks all the boxes NBC executives seek when they are looking for their dream anchor.

The only problem preventing NBC from going after him is that Flickerman is a wholly fictional character and Ryan Seacrest, who by all accounts is real, is out of their price range.

That leaves damaged-goods Brian Williams.

What will happen to him?

Nothing. Insulated by his appeal, he’ll skate with this minor shaming. He should be dismissed, of course. He’s a punchline and once you’ve lost your credibility, that should be it.

But, again, I’m old-fashioned.

Really, who is NBC going to find that gives them more of what they want than Williams?

He’s funny. He’s warm. He’s caring. And, boy, does he tell a compelling story.

I do have one suggestion for any network eager to discover the next perfect anchor.

Begin your search in Alaska.

There’s bound to be some really great anchors in Anchorage. 

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