Love thy enemy, says Shelley Ross.
As new senior exec producer of CBS’s The Early Show, Ross can’t wait to battle against her former baby, ABC’s Good Morning America.
“I look at it like the Williams sisters [Venus and Serena],” says Ross, who starts Monday. “They are two tennis gladiators. They grew up loving each other, rooting for each other. But when they get on that court, they both want to win.”
“If they can do it with a big heart and still be sisters, so can I.”
Not sisters and brothers, apparently. Steve Friedman, former v.p., morning broadcasts, and ex-senior e.p. Michael Bass are both in “active discussions” with CBS News chief Sean McManus about new roles in the division, the network says.
Friedman won’t stick on Early, says Ross, who had not spoken with him as of late Monday. Bass will help with the transition, and it’s “possible” he’ll stay, she adds.
As for raiding ABC’s vault for talent and producers, Ross “will hire the best people available. Clearly, I’ve worked with a lot of people. Many of the people I would love to work with again are at ABC. Weâ€™ll see.” (Translation: Update your resumes.)
During her 1999-2005 tenure at GMA, Ross helped bring together Charlie Gibson and Diane Sawyer as anchors and revitalized the show to a strong No. 2 position, behind NBC’s Today. She left the network January 1.
Having already lived through one hitch on the Dawn Patrol, what convinced Ross to return to that hellacious schedule?
“Sean McManus. It’s that simple. Usually, I do one stint in my life and move on. I clearly had moved on. I could have done anything. When I met Sean, there was something about his experience, his manner. He shares my drive to win.”
With Today and GMA both adjusting to new co-anchors, Ross saw a window of opportunity for The Early Show to crawl out of the Nielsen basement it has occupied for decades.
Despite reports to the contrary, Ross says she’s not a difficult boss. “People enjoy working with me. They walk out of my office and say, ‘Oh my God, she was so helpful, so nice, and her notes were great on my script.'”
What’s in the script for The Early Show? The big question is whether Ross will tinker with the anchor troika of Harry Smith, Hannah Storm and Julie Chen, who’s frequently in L.A.
Not likely. “We just have one anchor more than the other networks. There’s an authenticity and genuineness with this anchor team. Julie Chen is as an asset to the show. I’m not opposed to the format.”
Speaking of Les Moonves, Ross vehemently denies Ed Kleinâ€™s claims in his new book, Katie: The Real Story, that Ross met with CBS’ Mr. Big in fall ’05 about becoming No. 2 to McManus.
“Garbage in, garbage out,” says Ross, who has not read the book. “It’s appalling. The whole thing is garbage.”