Review: the new CBS Evening News

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June 20, 2011

The new CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley is better than the Katie Couric disaster of a show, which was much like Spider-Man the musical in terms of being painful to watch, but they still have a lot of work to do. Scott Pelley is either nervous, or the producers/directors are messing up his performance. His banter after each field report is so stiff, it makes one wonder whether he is replying to taped segments and not really speaking to a live reporter (which is very likely given budget cutbacks making live video connections rare nowadays).

The producers also have Pelley awkwardly trying to caress a coffee mug while talking. Say what? It looks stupid. Do the network geniuses think that it makes the TV image more “welcome in the living room” if he holds a cup of coffee or water like Kathie Lee Gifford? It reminds one of the embarrassing attempts to have Katie Couric sit on the news desk with her legs crossed.

It seems to be true about what news insiders have said about this new CBS news crew, now headed up by Jeff Fager: that all of the whipper snappers responsible for driving the Katie Couric news show into last place have been expelled and the old timers are in charge. The field reporters are mostly over 60 years of age. There seems to be an almost reverse age discrimination.

Pelley is much better on 60 Minutes, so this stiff performance is surprising, and likely not his fault. The CBS producers seem to be overworking the show like a sit-com or drama. After all, TV news is just an act of reading stuff from a teleprompter. Ratings will continue to dwindle as fewer and fewer people watch stale news. Broadcast news people should stop trying to tinker with the formula. The Internet is the problem, not the broadcast formula.

Scott Pelley is a veteran broadcast personality who will likely steer the new show into a more comfortable style. For now, the producers are overthinking it.

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