‘Morning Joe’ Three Years In

By Chris Ariens 

MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” gets the New York Times Sunday Styles section treatment this weekend. In a 2,700-word article we learn about what Joe and Mika (first names only) think about the evolution of the show and what other boldface names think of the chatfest which celebrates three years on the air tomorrow.

When you first turn on “Morning Joe,” for a moment you might think you’re still in the Stepford-ized zone of network breakfast television. Mika is so striking, poised and accommodating; Joe is so alpha. It’s easy to be misled. But once you start listening, you realize this is a new genre: morning-news-romcom-verite. The hosts’ differences become plain as they riff on the headlines, arguing, flirting and jousting with an energy that can feel more Hot Lips Houlihan and Hawkeye Pierce than Meredith Vieira and Matt Lauer.

New Yorker columnist Hendrik Hertzberg, who occasionally appears on the show, tells The Times, “It’s just a friendly, family atmosphere. It’s like they’re your siblings. They feel like they’re brother and sister, with a little incestuous edge.” Another frequent guest, Tom Brokaw who hosted mornings on the “Today” show in the 1970s, says “It’s one of the few places left on television in which you have time to say more than two or three sentences at a time.” Filmmaker Nora Ephron doesn’t watch so much for the commentary, but the comedy: “I tend to watch almost anything like this in terms of: is this romantic comedy? And it is.”

Meanwhile, we have an update on the show’s executive producer Chris Licht. Licht continues to recover from a brain hemorrhage that kept him hospitalized in Washington, DC for a week. TVNewser has learned Licht returned home to New York Thursday and is recovering and gaining strength. “He’s been amazed by the outpouring of well wishes from his friends and colleagues in the industry,” says a spokesperson for MSNBC. Licht will undergo another test in two weeks before doctors give him the all clear.

(Photo: Michael Nagle for The New York Times)