I was in the back of a taxi this afternoon, and the taxi had a TV in it.
Taxi TV is a growing phenomenon in Manhattan, and most of the time I ignore it or turn it off, but today is the ‘7th worst gridlock day of the year’, (so says WNBC-4, which I was watching in the taxi) so I had lots of time.
After we got done with a story about dog adoption and some guy who is building the next generation artificial foot (he lost both his own legs in a climbing accident when he was 17 – see what you can learn from TV?), we got a bit from Brian Williams….then an SNL clip.
The SNL clip was not funny. (I don’t think they have been funny since Belushi died, but I am stuck in the back of a taxi and you can’t change the channel). But the SNL clip reminded me of a bit I had seen Brian Williams do on the Today Show, where the was throwing pennies out of his window on Rockefeller Center and hitting Matt Lauer in the head with them.
Now that was funny.
I had heard that Brian Williams was supposed to be funny, at least in real life.
He certainly is not funny on NBC News… nor is he particularly entertaining.
Jon Stewart if both funny and entertaining.
But Brian is not.
What Brian is, is a ‘serious newsman’. He talks in ‘serious newsman talk’.
Like Peter Jennings did.
Like Walter Cronkite did.
Like Dan Rather did.
And ‘serious newsman talk’, which was kind of cool in 1966 is today both old and boring. Really boring.
And they all got it from Edward R. Murrow, who invented it.
All of this made me think of Chuck Yeager – pictured above.
Yeager was a test pilot who broke the sound barrier – back when that was a very big deal. He became the model for all test pilots. Calm. unflappable, with that Texas drawl and twang. “Roger.. the wing has fallen off the airplane and I am attempting a 90-degree turn so as to return the airplane to the base… over”. You know how it is supposed to sound. Yeager talk. Test pilot talk. Right stuff talk.
When you get on a commercial plane today, no matter who the carrier, the pilot talks in Chuck Yeager talk: “this is your pilot speaking. We are now cruising at an altitude of 40 thousand feet”. Slim Pickins in Doctor Strangelove did a great job.
You know what it sounds like. It makes you feel comfortable.
If you ever buckled into your American Airlines flight and suddenly the pilot got on and started talking with a heavy Brooklyn accent “Oye….ve are flyink very very fast…” you would throw up on the spot. Yeager talk means confidence.
In the world of broadcasting, Edward R. Murrow set the standards for Anchor Talk. Tall, dark haired, smoker, trenchcoat. Pauses at poigniant moments. “This…. is London”. Look at Peter Jennings and you could be looking at Edward R. Murrow. Look at Brian Williams and you could be looking at Peter Jennnings imitating Edward R. Murrow.
Which is too bad.
Because Brian is probably a lot better looser and funnier than Murrow.
Murrow is old… and so is Chuck Yeager.
Why can’t we deliver news with a sense of humor – (unless its on the Comedy Channel?)
Maybe we should let Brian be Brian. Loosen up, Brian!
Maybe we should let Katie be Katie.
She doesn’t really make a believable Murrow… or Chuck Yeager for that matter.