Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Diva, the Supergirl and the Ministry of Truth

"People have a very personal relationship with us.
" - Katie Couric in a New Yorker interview.

Not all people, at least not young Charles Evans, late of New Orleans, LA, and current resident of Dallas, TX.

Charles, as you might know, is the young boy who Campbell Brown, NBC correspondent and nicknamed "Supergirl" in our household for her reporting during Katrina and its aftermath, interviewed at the New Orleans Convention Center. Charles is - is with some people at least - an articulate 9-year-old who put a very personal face on the suffering people were going through. It was obvious during the segment that he and Campbell had taken a genuine liking to each other, too.

In between preparing for the vapid sixth annual "Today Show Throws a Wedding;" a segment where couples get an all-expenses-paid wedding in return for having their private lives outed to the world, some Today Show producer had the stroke of genius that Katie should do a followup interview with Charles. If you follow the Today Show, you know these off-site interviews are always a crap shoot. The technology seems surprisingly failure-prone. Even professional interviewees like politicians often end up staring blankly into the camera, murmuring to the technicians that they can't hear anything. And with people not used to being bathed in white light and being told to look into a camera lens while a disembodied voice asks semi-intelligible questions through an ear bud feed, it can get quite uncomfortable to watch.

As it did with Charles and Katie last week. Charles, obviously up much earlier than he's used to, slumped in his chair, face full of suspicion, answering in monosyllables as Katie with increasing desperation unsuccessfully tried to draw something - anything - out of him.

"Are things better now?" Katie asked. Silence. "Yes?" she prompted. "Yes," Charles agreed, probably trying to figure out what this white lady's voice in his ear wanted.

"How are they better now?" Katie wheedled. Silence. "Charles?" "What she say?" Charles asked, turning to his grandmother for support.

At the non-interview's conclusion serious cracks were starting to appear in La Couric's fa├žade: "Maybe you just don't like me, Charles," she said with a trace of bitterness, immediately following with a "just kidding" disclaimer.

But one wonders whether Katie was in on Weekend Today's decision to send Campbell to Texas and back to Charles ... or what Katie's reaction was if she hadn't been informed. Patently ignoring the Couric interview as if it had been excised from Today Show history in some sort of 1984ish Ministry of Truth move, the introduction to the Brown interview this Sunday used almost the same words that were used for Katie's attempt at an interview... "young man touched the hearts of America... many wondered what has become of him (ignoring Katie Couric, for one thing)... Campbell Brown now..."

...and Campbell Brown did, immediately establishing the same rapport with Charles ("You came all the way here to see me?" he says with friendly wonder), and producing a tearjerker to boot when we discover that Charle's great-aunt has died during the ordeal and he produced an obituary for her on his own. I don't want to sound as if I'm making light of this. It was a powerful, emotional segment, and about everything good you could find in network television news these days.

As opposed to Couric's, which was just about as bad and as embarrassing as anything you would never want to see. One can only imagine what it's like in the halls of 30 Rockefeller Plaza this week. Screaming? Icy silence except for the sound of heads rolling and laughter in the sky as Supergirl flies away?

It was a bad week for Katie's image altogether. While informing the Today Show Wedding lucky couple of the luxury destination that had been selected for their honeymoon, Katie kept dropping her notes onto a wind-swept Maryland beach. She studiously ignored them as they gathered around the bride's feet, as everyone else - including the groom - eyed the pile uneasily and looked as if they were considering the propriety of falling to their knees and gathering them up. But not Katie. Bending over was not an option.

Time for an fhb prediction. I think we'll hear that Katie Couric will be leaving The Today Show before the year is out. She looks gone, you know?


Anonymous said...

A Jill prediction: Charles Evans will get her spot. He's a star in the making--he's just got that something. :-)!

Anonymous said...

But seriously, folks...

Well written, fhb. Nice job. Wasn't even aware of the Campbell Brown thing. And the tie that binds Brown and Evans? That no-bullshit attitude, of course. It grows wild in the South. :-)

And Evans is in Dallas? Hmmm. Maybe we can take HIM home. :-)!