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NBC is apparently concerned that David Gregory is insane. Which is a sign that NBC might not be.
Paul Farhi has a new piece up at the Washington Post examining the ratings wars for Sunday morning political talk shows (it’s a lot like the late night wars, except that normal people actually get news from late-night comedians).
NBC, he explains, has a problem. Ever since the death of the (rightly) lionized Tim Russert, Meet the Press has been in the hands of David Gregory, a stock character from an ’80s teen movie (he’s the bumptious guy who tries to steal the protagonist’s girlfriend, only to get his comeuppance when he’s humiliated in front of the entire high school.)
Unsurprisingly, Gregory’s cod liver oil personality hasn’t exactly led to a ratings bonanza. Meet the Press has now fallen to third in Sunday show ratings, behind CBS’s Face the Nation (hosted by the reanimated corpse of Bob Schieffer) and ABC’s This Week (hosted by George Stephanopoulos three weeks a year and whoever’s in the ABC break room the rest of the time).
It’s not out of the ordinary for such performance failures to generate corporate anxiety. It is, however, probably unusual for them to take the turn they have at NBC:
Last year, the network undertook an unusual assessment of the 43-year-old journalist, commissioning a psychological consultant to interview his friends and even his wife. The idea, according to a network spokeswoman, Meghan Pianta, was “to get perspective and insight from people who know him best.” But the research project struck some at NBC as odd, given that Gregory has been employed there for nearly 20 years.
I think we’ve all been there. Your workplace performance slips a little and, next thing you know, you come home to a shrink trying to get your wife to handicap the probability that you’ll hurl a live grenade into a Lady Foot Locker. It’s a story as old as humanity itself.
You don’t need a “consultant” (truly America’s most elastic job title) to unearth the problem here. Gregory is a smug, self-satisfied narcissist; the kind of person who’s more interested in hearing himself ask the question than bothering to listen to the answer. He’s Piers Morgan without the patina of credibility that comes with a British accent. Is that really someone you want in your home for Sunday breakfast?
Ricochet is home to an audience that’s highly politically literate. How many of you even watch one of the Sunday shows? Is there anything that could get you to tune in? What do you look for in someone tasked with conducting serious political interviews? Who do you think does it best?