Don’t you hate when a fixture of the past several decades of your life comes to an end, reminding you of your own inexorable process of aging? That will happen this Sunday, when 60 Minutes’ Andy Rooney, the proud original H8R, will announce that he is ending his regular commentaries at the end of 60 Minutes.
Rooney, who began doing “A Few Minutes With Andy Rooney” in 1978 (he joined CBS in 1949), is 92 years old, so it’s not surprising that he might want to take a break at this juncture in his life. But it’s been one of the more fantastic runs in broadcast TV history.
Rooney was nearly 60 when he began his commentaries, so he’s going to be cemented in the minds of his audience as—so the popular shorthand goes—a kvetcher, a curmudgeon, a grouser, raising his prodigiously bushy eyebrows in skepticism at a foolish world. For more than three decades, he found any number of annoyances to bemoan, from art to technology to travel. (He also sometimes weighed in on heftier issues, like the war in Iraq.)
And yet, weirdly, it’s not a complete stretch to see TV’s cranky old man as the prototype of the blogger, or at least a certain kind of observational blogger, employed as he was for so long to skewer, satirize and give voice to gripes. His style (“Don’t you hate when…”) has been easy enough to spoof—fair play, after all, for a guy whose meal ticket is making fun—but it was also economical and distinctive in its voice. (A recent Internet meme, the Andy Rooney Game, involved taking a Rooney video essay and stripping out everything but the first and last sentence, which, often, would pretty much imply the entire piece in between.)
Perhaps Andy Rooney has finally exhausted life’s supply of irritations. But they will remain for the rest of us, and many writers who use snark as a weapon carry a little of his influence. I’m one of them, even if I haven’t regularly watched his commentaries in years. While it’s easy to sum him up as an old grouch, telling the world to get off his televisual lawn, one of my favorite observations of his was a very unstereotypically-Rooney sentiment, about how myopic it is for one generation to assume that everything new is worse. I read it in a book of his essays when I was in high school: “It’s just amazing how long this country has been going to hell without ever having got there.”
It’ll have to get there without him now. Congrats on a long, grumpy ride, Mr. Rooney.
CBS’s announcement follows:
ANDY ROONEY TO STEP DOWN
FROM HIS “60 MINUTES” ROLE
Andy Rooney will announce on this Sunday’s 60 MINUTES that it will be his last regular appearance on the broadcast. Rooney, 92, has been featured on 60 MINUTES since 1978.
He will make the announcement in his regular essay at the end of the program, his 1097th original essay for 60 MINUTES. It will be preceded by a segment in which Rooney looks back on his career in an interview with Morley Safer.
“There’s nobody like Andy and there never will be. He’ll hate hearing this, but he’s an American original,” said Jeff Fager, chairman CBS News and the executive producer of 60 MINUTES. “His contributions to 60 MINUTES are immeasurable; he’s also a great friend. It’s harder for him to do it every week, but he will always have the ability to speak his mind on 60 MINUTES when the urge hits him.”
Rooney began his run on 60 MINUTES in July 1978 with an essay about the reporting of automobile fatalities on the Independence Day weekend. He became a regular feature that fall, alternating weeks with the dueling James J. Kilpatrick and Shana Alexander before getting the end slot all to himself in the fall of 1979. In Rooney’s first full season as the 60 MINUTES commentator, the broadcast was the number one program for the first time.
He had been a contributor to 60 MINUTES since the program’s inception. During the first season of the broadcast in 1968 he appeared a few times in silhouette with Palmer Williams, 60 MINUTES’ senior producer, in a short-lived segment called “Ipso and Facto.” It was one of many experiments the program’s creator, Don Hewitt, tried as an end for the program. Hewitt settled with the Point/Counterpoint segment that Kilpatrick and Alexander appeared in for a few years before finding the perfect coda for 60 MINUTES in Andy Rooney.
Rooney also produced 60 MINUTES segments for Harry Reasoner during the broadcast’s first few seasons.
He wrote his first television essay, a longer precursor of the type he does on 60 MINUTES, in 1964, “An Essay on Doors.” From 1962 to 1968, he collaborated with Reasoner, with Rooney writing and producing and Reasoner narrating, on such notable CBS News specials as “An Essay on Bridges” (1965), “An Essay on Hotels” (1966), “An Essay on Women” (1967), “An Essay on Chairs” (1968) and “The Strange Case of the English Language” (1968). That same year, he wrote two CBS News specials in the series “Of Black America.” His script for “Black History: Lost, Stolen or Strayed” won him the first of four Emmy awards.
“An Essay on War” (1971), done for PBS, was his first appearance on television as himself and won Rooney his third Writers Guild Award.
Later, he wrote, produced and narrated a series of broadcasts for CBS News on various aspects of American life, including “Mr. Rooney Goes to Washington,” for which he won a Peabody Award, “Andy Rooney Takes Off,” “Mr. Rooney Goes to Work” and “Mr. Rooney Goes to Dinner.” Beginning in 1979, he wrote a weekly syndicated newspaper column that was recognized by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists when he was presented with its Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement Award in June 2003. That September, he was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Emmy. The Overseas Press Club gave him its President’s Award in 2010 for his reporting in World War II for The Stars and Stripes.
Rooney joined CBS in 1949 as a writer for “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts,” a Top 10 hit that was number one in 1952. He also wrote for “The Garry Moore Show” (1959-65), helping it to achieve hit status as a Top 20 program. At the same time, he wrote for CBS News public-affairs broadcasts such as “The Twentieth Century,” “News of America,” “Adventure,” “Calendar” and “The Morning Show with Will Rogers, Jr.”
In addition to magazine articles he wrote earlier in his career, Rooney is the author of 16 books, most recently Andy Rooney: 60 Years of Wisdom and Wit, was published by PublicAffairs in 2009. Rooney’s other books are: Air Gunner; The Story of The Stars and Stripes; Conquerors’ Peace; The Fortunes of War; A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney; And More by Andy Rooney; Pieces of My Mind; Word for Word; Not That You Asked…; Sweet and Sour; My War; Sincerely, Andy Rooney; Common Nonsense, Years of Minutes and Out of My Mind.
Rooney was born Jan. 14, 1919, in Albany, N.Y. He attended Colgate University until he was drafted into the Army in 1941. In February 1943, he was one of six correspondents who flew with the Eighth Air Force on the first American bombing raid over Germany.
Rooney lives in New York. He has three daughters and a son.