You gotta wonder what the decision makers at CBS news are smoking over at West 60th. Must be at least a double doobie, based on what they considered to be news for the debut of their new Evening News with Katie Couric Tuesday night. Couric opened the show with a perky "I am very happy to be with you tonight," which should have warned us all to switch over to the more professional Brian Williams at NBC.
After a brief foray into real news, a well-documented report on how President Bush's incredibly stupid decision to abandon the fight in Afghanistan for his war in Iraq allowed the Taliban to regroup and become more powerful, the show descended into the kind of fluff we should have expected from the former host of the Today Show.
At the beginning, Couric hyped the "first photos of Suri Cruise," the spawn of a less-than-newsworthy union between Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. That "big news" turned out to be nothing more the cover of Vanity Fair, due on newsstands today.
Then we had "freeSpeech," a segment devoted, we were told, to opinions from ordinary Americans. The first "ordinary American" was Morgan Spurlock, the young documentary filmmaker whose "Super Size Me" film about spending a month eating only food from McDonalds bought him 15 minutes of fame. Spurlock compared contemporary television news to TV wrestling and called for more civility in public debate. Another "ordinary American," Rush Limbaugh, is scheduled to spill his bile on Thursday.
In reality, I didn't expect much from Katie Couric and she delivered even less than expected. After all, her high point in media history came when she allowed her colon to be explored on national TV. On Tuesday, she gushed, smiled and emoted. She mangled words, even mispronouncing "soil" in a report about 9/11.
Her show did rate high in cringe-level embarrassment, such as when she went to commercial by saying "coming upůsomething new for the evening news, besides me."
She moved out from behind the anchor desk often and gave us flashes of leg and thigh in sit-down interviews, including one with New York Times columnist Tom Friedman that featured this memorable exchange:
Katie: Are we safer today than before September 11, 2001?
Tom: In same ways yes, in some ways no.
But the really pathetic part of the show came at the end when perky Katie revealed breathlessly that, after three months of preparation, she didn't have a way to close her new nightly newscasts.
Instead, she played back some of TV news more memorable closings (Edward R. Murrow saying "Good night and good luck," Huntley and Brinkely - "Good night Chet, Good Night David" - and Walter Cronkite saying "And that's the way it is." We also got the less memorable (Dan Rather saying "Courage") and even Ted Baxter from the Mary Tyler Moore show and Ron Burgandy (Will Ferrell).
So she's asking viewers to submit suggesting closings for her newscast.
I've got one suggestion. How about: "Good night and this is my final broadcast. I'm doing journalism a favor by leaving the business."