Almost Everything About CNN. What has happened to the grandfather of cable news networks? CNN has had its issues in recent years, but thinking back over more than three decades I can't recall it ever being so completely unimportant or so easily forgotten about. There is simply no chemistry between any of CNN's anchors and reporters -- and from what I have seen, none of them have much of a connection with viewers, either. Anderson Cooper may be the sole exception to this; sadly, he seems to be adrift in a sea of mediocrity. (Also, I don't think his annual shenanigans with Kathy Griffin in Times Square on New Year's Eve have done much to boost his news cred, but that could be the Grinch in me talking.) I think Piers Morgan is a good interviewer who is capable of starting and maintaining interesting conversations, but his show lacks the appeal and urgency of its long-time prime-time predecessor, “Larry King Live.” (Could the problem have anything to do with Morgan's garish, visually repellent set?) Here's hoping the network turns itself around in 2014.
Almost Everything About MSNBC. Why do I always get the feeling that so many MSNBC anchors and their guests are smirking at the audience? Why do so many of them attempt to emphasize what they are saying by waving their hands? And what's with all the speed talking? I sometimes think their heads are going to explode, like those unfortunate folks in the 1981 David Cronenberg movie “Scanners.” They are free to do what they want, of course -- but they should know that perpetual forced smiling, breathless hyper-talking and frantic hand movements tend to prompt people not to lean forward but to sit back and turn away, regardless of what is being said. Maybe that's why MSNBC's ratings remain so low.
Those Giant iPad-Like Screens on the Fox News Deck. Fox News this year bugged me the least of the three cable news networks, largely because I think it does a better job on the technical level of engaging viewers. But I was a bit overwhelmed by the screens that look like over-sized iPads that fill much of the new Fox News Deck. I don't tune in to watch people work, which is what everyone standing near one of those things seems to be doing. Energy should flow from news anchors to the camera, not from anchors to screens (and vice versa). At first pass the new Deck looked silly and overdone, but now I think it's kind of cool, even if the largesse of it all seems unnecessary. I have to wonder: Why are all three cable news nets so challenged whenever they attempt to modernize their sets? They should just negotiate with the BBC to acquire sections of Doctor Who's TARDIS and be done with it.
The Attack of the Sleeveless Women. They were everywhere this summer. Many of them stayed throughout the fall. A few of the hardier ones are braving the winter. They are … the Sleeveless Women of TV News and Infotainment. I realize this gripe ought to be directed toward the fashion industry, which seems often to betray no interest in or understanding of the lives of real women (or men), and also to the media that fawningly covers it. But this is a TV column, so … can someone please tell me why every woman on every morning news show and every infotainment program this year felt the need to dress exactly alike in sleeveless, scoop-necked, above-the-knee, brightly colored frocks that often fit so snugly as to look breath-constricting? Most of them had the same hair, too! (I'm guessing there were hundreds of extensions on display, but I know little about such things.) Every one of these women, regardless of age or size, is very attractive and looks just fine on camera. So why did they do this to themselves? Or perhaps the better question is, why are they allowing their (mostly male) employers to treat them like Barbie dolls? I suggest they all resolve to assert their individuality in 2014. They can start by looking to Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer and Jane Pauley for inspiration. These veteran newswomen have always dressed for success, but never to the degree that they looked silly or uncomfortable.