The Ruminator: Unimpressed with sleazy sequel

Aug 27, 2001  •  Post A Comment

It wasn’t a good week for the ol’ Ruminator, primarily because I saw “American Pie 2.” The original, of course, was a huge hit starring Bill and Monica in sophomoric and tawdry shenanigans. The sequel, this time starring the Congressman and the Newslady talking about the Intern, had potential, but oh boy, hand me that scotch.
In the history of Connie Chung’s career, there are very few people who have made her look sympathetic. We can thank Congressman Gary Condit for that. You wonder, if that’s all he was going to say, why he went on in the first place. And if Connie’s only idea was to make him admit that he had sex with that woman, you wonder if she really bothered to know what the real issues are.
After a while what she should have said is: “It’s obvious that you’re not going to answer that question. So let me get this straight. Chandra’s mother, Susan Levy, lied, the flight attendant, Anne Marie Smith, lied, and the police lied. So isn’t it amazing, Mr. Congressman, that you’re the only one telling the truth.” Now THAT would’ve been a zinger! So once again, landing the interview is only part of the job. Don’t tell me Barbara Walters wouldn’t have done a better job.
Or, if the congressman had let a man interview him, Tom Brokaw. While most of the TV press seems to be captivated about what seems to be the never-ending saga of the future of NBC “Today” show star Katie Couric, the real story about a really big news star at 30 Rock will unfold before Couric decides what to do. It is D-day decision time for one Tom Brokaw … the voice and face of NBC News long before Couric was a glimmer in the Peacock’s eyes. While he gets multiple millions for his role, he was still able to convince the network to give him the summer off.
Before he left for Westchester and Montana, Tom told people both inside and outside NBC that he was taking the summer off to reflect on his future as NBC’s Numero Uno news anchor. And the halls of NBC were alive with the sounds of don’t be surprised if Tom comes back and says goodbye to the anchor desk. The story goes on to say Mr. Brokaw is tired of being confined by the daily newscast and is ready to move on. This would give him the freedom to write even more books about the war that saved the free world and do more meaningful stuff for NBC news. More meaningful at least than reading lead-ins to “in their own words” and reports from various correspondents in the field. After all, Tom’s deal is up in the spring and that is forcing him to make real decisions about his future.
One problem here: The Ruminator has never seen anyone in the evening news anchor chair leave voluntarily since Chet Huntley did so 30 years ago. And poor Chet, who was in good health while sharing NBC’s anchor couch with David Brinkley, died not too long after leaving. While most of those who know Brokaw and his nightly competitors, Peter Jennings and Dan Rather, tell the Ruminator that Brokaw is the “most normal” of the group and could live without being on TV every night, I just don’t see Tommy B. walking away.
When he left in June, “NBC Nightly News” was solidly in first place. This summer, with heir apparent Prince Brian Williams logging the most substitute time, NBC has fallen into second many weeks behind ABC and at times was just barely ahead of CBS. With this, you could argue NBC needs Brokaw more than ever and that Williams will be banished to cable and Secaucus, N.J., until his contract runs out later next year.
One could imagine Brokaw at the ranch in his blue jeans waiting on Tuesdays for the ratings fax and smiling wryly as Williams dropped another tenth of a point. Feeling his oats, the author-anchor might now believe it is time to strike for a new mega-deal. All roads on the news map point to a more Brokaw scenario.
But there is one caveat here. In the last decade, the network evening newscasts have lost about a third of their audience. With cable, the Internet, people working later and the emergence of morning TV as powers inside the networks, the evening newscasts are no longer the prized jewel on the news crown. And if you don’t believe me, ask the sales department at the networks. Take out the drug companies and the health aid products, this isn’t a daypart selling out in this tough advertising marketplace.
And there are even whispers that maybe the nightly early-evening newscasts might be an endangered species as TV moves on in the 21st century. Maybe, just maybe, Brokaw knows that his golden age is about over and he believes it’s time to get out while the getting is good. If so, this could be the rare instance where the Ruminator may be all wrong.