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CBS’ New Wake-Up Show: A Little Evening News in the Morning

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John P. Filo / CBS

CBS News debuts its new morning program CBS This Morning on Monday, January 9, 2012 with Charlie Rose, Gayle King and Erica Hill .

The different hours of network morning programs can be, essentially, two different shows (or in NBC’s case, four): the first one a news-based hour, the later, a package of features. But the two hours of the new CBS This Morning, headed by Charlie Rose and Gayle King, respectively, are almost literally night and day.

Part of the difference is the sharp difference in focus in the hours: Rose’s on hard news and 60 Minutes investigations, King’s on celebrity news and pop-culture interviews. And part of it is simply the difference between the hosts. King has a brighter demeanor and came on her first show wearing what she said was her favorite color, mustard yellow. (Introduced by Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love,” a reference, I’m guessing, to the singer’s new baby and not a comment on the host.) Rose wore his standard business suit and hooded cocktail-hour gaze and is ineffably associated with the wee hours from his years in PBS late-night; it feels like the light must automatically dim 25% when he walks into a room.

The first hour is in some ways conventional network news, but so far it’s the more distinct one compared with Today and Good Morning America. Essentially, CBS is betting that there’s a market niche for viewers looking for an evening newscast in the morning. Certainly it makes sense for CBS to try to leverage 60 Minutes, its one news property that still dominates after four decades. But a heavily news-and-politics hour presented by the ever-so-dry Rose—joined by the likes of Scott Pelley and Bob Schieffer—will be a switch, like asking viewers to wake up with a scotch rocks instead of coffee with cream and sugar.

The perennial drawback of having a much-anticipated news or talk show launch is that people judge you forever on the basis of your first show. Maybe the advantage of CBS This Morning starting out from so far in third place is that it’s far enough off the radar that people won’t rush to assess it.

So I’ll save judgment on whether CBS This Morning is a success. King’s hour especially, being much closer to the other morning second-halves, will depend on how her personality wears over time. (I also wonder whether the network will try to merge the hours more or less; this morning at least, King and Rose seemed to work more comfortably solo than as a team.) But at least the network is trying something besides a pure copy of Today and GMA. Anyone up for a stiff cocktail at 7 a.m.?

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