NA IMPRENSA INTERNACIONAL >
Anchors Get Giddy Around The Crown
God save us from the queen.
There’s nothing like a regal celebration to bring out the royal pains of American television. And the four-day extravaganza to celebrate the 60-year reign of Queen Elizabeth II was particularly rich in folly.
With so much time and so little new to say, anchors and commentators are emboldened to be their worst selves. Viewers are like Elizabeth Bennet in “Pride and Prejudice,” who watched helplessly as her sisters made spectacles of themselves at a ball and concluded “that had her family made an agreement to expose themselves as much as they could during the evening, it would have been impossible for them to play their parts with more spirit, or finer success.”
And that was certainly the case on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” whose anchors Robin Roberts and Lara Spencer mugged in front of Buckingham Palace on Tuesday wearing goofy ribbon fascinators on their heads and acting like teenagers on a sugar high at a shopping mall. Other news organizations showcased Elton John and Paul McCartney at Monday’s concert outside the palace. Ms. Spencer singled out Grace Jones’s Hula Hoop performance, which gave Ms. Spencer an excuse to segue to a clip of herself gyrating with a Hula Hoop on an old episode of “Good Morning America.” “Honestly, it was the moment of the concert,” she explained.
ABC was hardly alone in finding silly and self-serving ways to pep up Jubilee coverage, but there was a particular élan at “GMA,” which has narrowed the lead of “Today” on NBC, and has actually come out ahead in weekly viewership several times in recent months. ABC didn’t prevail by getting more substantive than NBC; the Jubilee provided a fresh canvas for the program’s newfound confidence in dumbing down.
Ms. Roberts, who used to be the Miss Hathaway of morning television, has reinvented herself as a girl who just wants to have fun with Ms. Spencer: over four days the two drank Pimm’s cups, donned frilly hats and danced and D.J.’ed their way through the royal events. The BBC coverage, shown on BBC America, included commentary by the historian Simon Schama. Ms. Roberts relied on the expertise of Len Goodman, a judge on the hit ABC show “Dancing With the Stars.”
NBC took the whole event more seriously, but there was just as much self-interest. Its parent company is spending more than a billion dollars to broadcast the 2012 London Olympics, so “Today” found all kinds of ways to link the Games to the Jubilee. The soccer star David Beckham was interviewed about the queen and his chances of making the British Olympic soccer team. The NBC correspondent Stephanie Gosk did a stand-up amid crowds gathered in Trafalgar Square, which, she explained, is where the British go to celebrate momentous events like the end of World War II and, as she put it, “where it was announced that London would be hosting the Summer Games.”
Famous anchors are sometimes described as American royalty, but lately some have a way of echoing the lower moments in the history of the House of Windsor. “Today” brought back the alumna Meredith Vieira as a special correspondent to anchor Tuesday’s Jubilee finale with Matt Lauer, and the two laughed and teased each other as if they were a newly reunited Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles.
Ann Curry, who is Mr. Lauer’s actual co-anchor, was the one “Today” star left out of the London coverage; even the weatherman Al Roker made the cut. (A“Today” show announcer rubbed it in by trumpeting a special edition, “ ‘Today’ at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee,” with Matt Lauer live at Buckingham Palace and Ms. Curry “live from Studio 1A in Rockefeller Plaza.”) Actually, Ms. Curry wasn’t even on the set in New York. From his chair next to Ms. Vieira, Mr. Lauer said briskly, “Ann has the morning off.”
It was hard to top the coverage of last year’s wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, but most networks, cable and broadcast, couldn’t resist royal mania. Even “CBS Sunday Morning,” which prides itself on homespun stories with a contrarian streak, fell under the spell, broadcasting a lengthy feature on Sunday about the Royal School of Needlework, where tailors and seamstresses hand-stitch embroidery for the queen and her family. Chris Wallace of Fox News held firm. He not only ignored the entire royal celebration on his Sunday talk show, but he also ended his program with an anti-monarchic nudge: a feature on George Washington’s home in Mount Vernon, Va.
Jon Stewart mercilessly mocked the television coverage, particularly the often inane enthusiasm of Piers Morgan on CNN, who described the flotilla on Sunday as an “orgy of excitement.” On Tuesday Mr. Morgan gushed over the queen for many hours straight, but perhaps with more envy than admiration. As Royal Air Force jets streamed red, white and blue smoke while flying over Buckingham Palace, Mr. Morgan said, “I wish I was king.”
CNN did devote almost as much to the Jubilee as BBC America did, but it’s a little unfair to judge that cable news network by a royal event. CNN functions best in hard news and international disasters. And now, more than ever, CNN serves as cable news’s best antidote to the solipsistic ranting of histrionic and proudly biased evening hosts on Fox News and MSNBC.
CNN’s ratings on many nights are at a low point, which makes the network’s refusal to follow its more successful rivals down the path of single-minded opinionating all the more admirable. Mr. Stewart joked that CNN, like Britain, is a fallen and enfeebled world power. But like Britain, CNN is a diminished empire that on special occasions still commands respect and attention. Except, paradoxically, when it gives lavish, unfiltered coverage to a glittery extravaganza like the Diamond Jubilee.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: June 5, 2012
An earlier version of this article misstated the amount NBC is spending to broadcast the Olympics. The network is spending more than a billion dollars, not several billion dollars.