Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Bothered By Today

Watching the Today Show bugs me and I try to avoid it. I tend to watch a Maine NBC affiliate for local news, weather and sports and the Today Show comes on as I’m leaving for work. Why does the Today Show bug me?

One thing is the crowd of people outside the studio window trying desperately to get noticed. They act like their greatest ambition in life is to appear on television, even if means that millions of Americans see them behaving like attention-starved adolescents. My guess is they don’t live in New York City. They’re tourists whose idea of an exciting vacation is standing in the cold for hours every morning outside the studio in case a camera should do a three-second pan of them returning from a commercial break. They jump around and wave their handmade signs so they can go back to wherever they came from and tell their friends what they did. Their signs should read: “I don’t have a life!” or “I’m desperate to be on TV so I’ll know I really exist!” or “Dignity? What’s that?” I think it’s the crowd that bugs me the most.

No. Maybe it’s not them. The hosts in the studio bug me too. When it was Katy and Matt, they sat and talked to the cameras while behind them through the windows we saw the crowd of American suck-ups gesticulate in their intense need to be recognized. Producers wanted the fawning crowd as a backdrop while Katy and Matt appeared cool and sophisticated as they told us what stories Americans should consider important. The message for viewers is: See how people want Katy and Matt to interpret the world for them? They know what’s best for us, so listen. The hosts behaved as though all this were the natural order of things. Later, they would go outside and mingle with the peasants as if granting a royal audience. Putting a microphone up to the bumpkins’ lips is like allowing them to kiss the ring. Many seemed about to pee their pants with excitement. Maybe it was the smug hosts that bugged me the most.

But maybe not. Katy Couric has been missing for months. Maybe it’s the incongruous programming that bothers me. Early in the broadcast, important guests visit and are questioned about weighty issues. Presidents and other powerful officials discuss the most pressing problems of our time. Doctors discuss medical breakthroughs. Yet these segments are followed by witless stories about clothing fashions. Anorexic women with pouty faces strut toward cameras wearing ridiculous-looking get-ups while the hosts ooh and aah. Is the show about news or is it about frivolous fashion trends? Politicians are guests. Actors and singers are guests. Last week, Katy’s replacement, Meredith Viera, said to Madonna: “You can kiss me if you want to.” Maybe she was kidding. Maybe not. Is this stuff a reflection of what America has come to? Maybe it’s the frivolous programming that bugs me most about the Today Show. I’m not sure.

Maybe it’s Matt Lauer. If someone bugs me, the shrinks say, it’s because he triggers something I’ve been avoiding in myself and I have to look at that. What is it about Matt Lauer that gets under my skin? Maybe he reminds me of guys I knew in high school who weren’t athletes, but talked about a sport as if they knew more than the people who played it. They were the guys who, when they talked to you, they seemed more concerned about how they sounded than what they were saying. Their words were not for your benefit, but for whomever else might be listening. They’d talk to you only if others more important weren’t available and if some showed up would drop you in mid-sentence and without a backward glance. Also, Matt seems genuinely interested in fashion trends and wedding preparations. No straight guy I know is interested in wedding plans or bridal dresses. A guy has to pretend to be interested if his fiancĂ© is telling him, or if he has to pay for the wedding his wife and daughter are planning. Those are the only times. Okay, maybe one more. If his boss’s wife is talking to him about that stuff he’ll pretend he’s interested.

Wait. I think I have it. Maybe what bugs me the most is that the Today Show has been the most popular morning broadcast for many years running, so it obviously appeals to a broad segment of American Society. That means most Americans really like this kind of stuff and my tastes are out of synch with the rest of the country.

Yeah, that’s it. That’s what bothers me about the Today Show.


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Anonymous said...

I can tell you that the ONLY thing that bothers me about "Today" is Ann Curry. It seems to me that lately she interupts interviews or segments by Natalie especially as if Natlie can't do her job.

It also appears to me that Ann tries to do all the talking to keep Meredith out of the loop. I have never cared for Ann on the shoe but she is just getting obnoxious.