CBS This Morning Makes Major Changes to the Formula, But Do They Work?

Charlie Rose flanked by Gayle King (left) and Erica Hill.

The latest attempt by CBS to find a ray of sunlight in morning news makes big changes from the norm, but overall the experiment is missing the mark.

Television is all about chemistry and cohesion. CBS is in such a difficult spot as the perennial number three in the morning. Therefore, a radical change isn’t so outlandish. But in the end, morning viewers are habitual. It’s the executives who want to reinvent the wheel.

And so, CBS did. Not only is the wheel reinvented, the entire set is revamped, and the much publicized new on-air team is in place.

This is not your father’s morning news show. Gone is the quick news update each half hour and the nation’s weather forecast (they still break away for local weather).

Immediately, the viewer is greeted by the “Eye Opener,” a one-time 90-second collage of sounds and images from the day before.

One important question to ponder—is Charlie Rose, clearly one of this generation’s great TV interviewers, the show’s answer? Typically, new equates to young, or at least younger, in an effort to go after those all-important 25 to 54 advertising dollars. Rather than finding renewed energy, Rose looks listless.

Hour one is politically heavy, Rose’s bread and butter. He is joined by holdover Erica Hill. Hour two gives a lighter feel with Oprah’s BFF Gayle King and the entertainment portion of our show. For example on Tuesday, Hollywood honcho Harvey Weinstein and A-lister Mark Walberg were guests. But unlike the staid news programs, everyone participates in the discussion. The anchors and correspondents sit at a roundtable with the CBS eye in the center—a set clearly modeled after Rose’s night time “home” on PBS.

The only segment in the entire broadcast that Rose wasn’t on camera was a segment about miscarriages where King and Hill voir dire the “witness,” contributor Lee Woodruff, who shared her personal experiences.

Aside from Rose’s aforementioned skills, the standout is John Miller, the senior correspondent. Miller, who was hired by CBS News specifically for this project, brings his wealth of national security experience to the topic. On this day, he had a fascinating piece on the newest bomb sniffing dog technology.

The other morning holdover is news reader Jeff Glor, who is now involved in larger stories as a special correspondent, spending more time on assignment than on-camera. His Tuesday piece was the less-than-exhilarating exploration into a battle brewing between cattle ranchers and a billionaire’s wife. Way to connect with your audience.

Much worse, though, were Glor’s reactions to the roundtable follow-up questions. Glor appeared nervous and flustered, stammering his way through two minutes worth of answers.

The highlight of CBS This Morning is without question the local cutaways to WCBS for newsbreaks. Two minutes of Mary Calvi or Rob Morrison inject more energy and interest than two hours with the three-headed monster at network.

At the end of the broadcast, Rose, who turned 70 last week, provided a perfectly condensing moment.

“You had a great 8 o’clock hour,” Rose said to King. “Harvey was great, Mark was great.”

Setting the show’s dynamic, the longtime broadcaster clearly is taking the neophyte King (at least in terms of Rose’s longevity) under his wing.

Ironically, CBS’ latest morning reboot was deconstructed then reconstructed to coincide with the 2012 election season. Now one is left to wonder if the show can survive until the first Tuesday in November?