Monday, September 13th, 1999
Live, from a studio that looked somewhat like the stern of a Federation starship crashed into a Times Square building, there they were, Diane and Charlie, your affable Good Morning America hosts. Look, they told us (in so many words)we’ve got it going on too! We’re kinda sorta out on the street-out over the street. We’ve got fancy neon and huge displays and, well, a lot of the same old set transported to this new place.
All of which is to say: GMA launched their new set on Monday. They spent millions. They had folks from co-ownedWalt Disney Imagineering helping them out. Do you care?
Will you care much when Bryant Gumbel’s revamped CBS morning show debuts with its fancy new street level set, graphics, music, and whatnot? Are you likin’ the new Peachtree Morning digs downtown? Did you start feeling better about WGNXer, CBS Atlanta news when they painted their brown set grey? How about when they plopped Jane Robelot and Calvin Hughes into the anchor chairs? Could you draw me a picture of the set behind John Pruitt and Monica Kaufman? Uh-huh.
I found myself wondering about this Monday night, watching a little Monday Night Football-to look at the graphics and animation. And there was plenty to watch. Every scoreboard element came a-tumbling onto the screen. The featurette at the top of the show was so laden with computer-generated animation that you were hard pressed to see the athletes and coaches in and among the simulated chrome, slabs of steel, and sparks. We careened around massive helmets that clashed together with huge explosions. Hank Williams, Jr. belted out game-specific lyrics from his spaceship (I can see the meeting: "well, this year we could put him and a bunch of cheerleaders in..uh..a spaceship!") Every damn statistic was brought onto the screen with a little spherical metal robot-sphere dude that looked like it escaped from the director’s cut of Blade Runner. Replays were delivered by a big glowing ABC-thing that looked like it could crush young children on the sidelines. And it was all really loud.
The scariest thing was that if you had a couple of grand to piss away, you could have been watching this wretched excess in high-definition. Aaaaggghh!
We have truly entered the Classic Era of "Why? Because we can." Yes, I blame Fox for having started this, and no, don’t get me wrong, I do like some of the crap placed between me and the action-like the upper-left scoreboard that keeps us up to date. It’s just that a few years back when Fox outbid CBS for the NFC football rights they set themselves up as the younger, hipper network by filling the blank spaces with graphics and accompanying wooshing sounds. Since then, every sports producer is told to "think outside the box" and go beyond Fox to give us something more, more.
The Good Morning America producers were given the same charge. An on-the-streets studio worked for Today, let’s do more, more. Get outside the box on that, too.
Problem is, we watch this stuff from inside the box, and from where I sit, it’s getting hard to see the stuff we want to see for stuff they want us to see.