There are three new hosts of CBS This Morning, which was unveiled yesterday. One is Erica Hill, a holdover from The Early Show, the previous program in the early-morning time slot. Another is Gayle King, still best known as Oprah Winfrey's best friend, who's here to handle most of the entertainment interviews. And the third, the pivot point, is Charlie Rose, brought over from PBS to give this new show an injection of instant respectability and seriousness.
But the first hour of CBS This Morning, in two days, has shown one thing already. It wants to take a little longer, and cover things from more than just one angle. On today's show, political correspondent Jan Crawford reported on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's widely quoted statement about liking to fire people — but made sure to put both the remark, and the resultant publicity, in context. Within minutes, Charlie Rose was talking to CBS Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer, and broached the same subject to him. Schieffer was comfortable enough with Rose, and honest enough, to chuckle about it.
In the early days and weeks, and even months, of a new talk or morning show, it takes a while to discover what's right. It's what's wrong that jumps out at you right away, and the only thing that jumps out in a bad way, about CBS This Morning is that the approach, especially in hour two, isn't quite as serious, or as hard news-oriented, as it might be.
The real test, I suppose, will come soon, when CBS starts rolling out its prime-time reality shows — its Big Brothers, its Survivors. In the past, those shows' losers have been paraded out the next day on CBS's morning show. In the future, if they aren't, then maybe the network really is serious about being serious.
But being serious, and smart, doesn't mean you can't do feature stories. Elsewhere on CBS, 60 Minutes has been mixing hard and soft news, brilliantly, for decades — now there's a TV tradition. And even NBC's newest attempt at a prime-time newsmagazine, Rock Center with Brian Williams, covers both ends of the spectrum very well. In its first show of the New Year, Williams presented a wonderful little story about the cleanup crew at Times Square, whose work began as soon as the ball dropped on New Year's Eve. To mark the transition, the NBC report selected the best possible music cue: Wilson Pickett's "In the Midnight Hour."
And the piece topped even that music cue, by catching two street sweepers singing a late-night, Times Square a cappella variation of – what else? – "New York, New York"?
I love it. And if this push for more serious TV news shows — a push that includes The CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley, Rock Center and now CBS This Morning — is indeed a trend, then count me in.