- First off, let's try to be as fair as possible to CNN & the segment itself. The basic premise is the hosts of CNN's brand new show, 'Early Start,' call one of their "friends" at the crack of dawn or worse. I note it's a brand new show because it's clear the producers/staff are doing anything possible to liven up a show built for people coming off the night shift, insomniacs and the walking/waking dead. The show is so new & fresh, it doesn't have it's own home page on the CNN website. That should tell us something.
Anchors Ashleigh Banfield & Zoraida Sambolin state on-air the "Wake 'Em Up" bit is the only way they think they can get guests on at five in the morning Eastern standard time. Seriously, that's the best idea they could come up with...essentially prank/surprise calling people at 5, 4 & 3 a.m. Here's a sample of one of these...it's complete with technical glitches, but at least actress Diane Neal wasn't all upset/surprised about being called (twice).
- At its best, it's a poorly-constructed gimmick that could lead to some (almost) funny, awkward moments and maybe a point of clarity or two from the guest before they hang up and immediately change their cell phone number. I'm trying to imagine people at CNN sitting in a production meeting and concocting this idea without someone asking, "Isn't this dumb? This is dumb, right?"
If someone at CNN didn't see it was dumb, the folks at Comedy Central sure did.
The Daily Show, whose large staff represents the Justice League of cable news critics, chronicled the segment's many shortcomings and screw-ups in their own segment called 'Waking Bad' last night. I think Mr. Stewart speaks for the vast majority of news junkies when he notes that cold-calling a Kennedy at 5 a.m. is not a good idea. "How am I? I'm getting ready to say _______ real loud."
- In all honesty, I actually found myself covering my eyes watching the Daily Show's segment. Banfield's, "This is the FBI calling," riff without confirming she was actually talking to Chuck Nice was ludicrous. According to Nice's Twitter account, they did get him when they called back, but the poor guy who answered the phone...I wonder if they called HIM back. That's inexcusable.
Watching local news all of my life, studying news broadcasting & later working at a local station, I have seen some terrible, terrible stuff on morning shows (and of course I've been awful too). But the idea to cold-call a person at 5 a.m. & try to 'outperk' their groggy responses is amongst the oddest, most idiotic ideas ever conceived. The Daily Show's criticism was of course caught by Banfield, who admitted she was hurt but undaunted, calling Stewart her "absolute hero." And finding out you disappointed your hero must really ruin your morning, not as much as being snapped out of REM sleep by a surprise(!) interview, but it's still no fun.
- I'll readily admit that I never intend to watch morning news shows. I got turned off to them a long time ago (especially local ones, sorry friends). The only way I'm watching 'Early Start' or any other news program at such a God-forsaken hour is if one of my children screams loudly enough to force me awake to console them. Sitting in front of a TV at 5 a.m., I'd still rather watch re-runs. Even they are more original than segments like "Wake 'Em Up."
Since Banfield & Sambolin seem to want to keep this segment, there's only one way I see it actually coming to a merciful end. So I'm doing some calling of my own. I'm calling on Anderson Cooper to cold-call Banfield, Sambolin and 'Early Start's executive producer live on-air at 10:50 p.m. every night during his show until they cry or cut the segment. Preferably they do both at the same time. That way they get a taste of their own medicine...
And besides that, it will give Newt Gingrich, Blue Ivy and Tim Tebow slightly less airtime, which would be just fine by me.