THE FEMALE FACTOR

Successful morning shows always, always revolve (subtly) around the lead female host. There are those who will argue this point with me ’til the cows come home. Bring it on. I know it to be true. It’s happened to me show after show after show.  She runs the show – sometimes without even realizing it.  She is reaching out to a mostly female audience – and female viewers are very particular about the women they will and won’t watch.  She needs all of these traits:

  • warmth
  • class
  • a sense of humor
  • wardrobe, makeup and hairstyles that are simple and relatively conservative

Warmth is key. It’s also an intangible. I can’t describe what warmth looks like on the TV screen. But I know it when I see it. Too many hiring news executives can’t see it. Your host has to be the type of woman your viewers would want as a friend, to have coffee with and confide in. She shouldn’t be a knockout although she certainly can be attractive.

s-engbulletinspecial-jvI’ve got a clip to show you from a former anchorwoman at Global News in Canada. Her name is Sherry Miller. She’s now an actress and ironically, in this clip, she is playing the role of TV News anchorwoman Jane Oliver on the popular ’90’s Canadian drama series, E.N.G.  I used this clip in another post to illustrate the brilliant way that a particular news story was presented in the episode. But it works equally as well here talking about strong female hosts. Even though this story is fiction – it’s so real:

What news viewer wouldn’t instantly bond with “Jane Oliver” after seeing her warmth and vulnerability and honesty and concern? My only frustration is that the scene was shot showing Jane from the side. It would have been so much more powerful seeing her speak directly into the camera on an unforgiving close-up. That’s the type of woman you want hosting your morning show. Period.

Now, the ideal ensemble cast surrounding your lead host or co-host should be made up of more men than women. That’s for a very important reason: Human nature.  Women are ultra-critical of other women – and thus, female viewers are ultra-critical of female talent. If they don’t like a particular woman host for any number of reasons, they turn the channel – no questions asked. I have witnessed women in car dealership waiting rooms get up and change the channel announcing, “I can’t stand that woman”. I have seen it at my dentist’s office and in my own living room. It’s simple fact that the more female talent you have on the set, the more chance you have of female viewers disliking one of them – resulting in fewer viewers. It’s simple human nature and it happens right in front of your eyes all the time.

Many morning shows have women hosting who I would describe as Femme Fatales. They’re hot, they know it, they’re dressed like they’ve got a hot date right after the show, they’re masters of innuendo, they have a fake, rehearsed, plastic laugh, and they’re simply not authentic. Imagine a Femme Fatale reading the script Jane Oliver read in the clip above. She couldn’t pull it off if her Manolo Blaknik‘s depended on it.  This is not to say that Femme Fatale-type hosts don’t have their place. Sure, they work well on entertainment magazine shows and some talk shows and all over prime time and late night. But sorry, they’re miscast in the morning. They party hardy. Let them sleep it off.

Ray Signature

 If you’re interested in watching the entire E.N.G episode, you can find it here. 

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2 thoughts on “THE FEMALE FACTOR”

  1. I believe you nailed most of it perfectly. And ALL of the above is totally true.

    As a woman working in television, my perspective is a little different. I can tell you that pretty much every woman breathing in the United States that has any exposure to any media probably can’t comment on any of the current Presidential candidates (except Trump, of course). But ask them about female TV hosts, and they’ve got a DETAILED LIST. And it will be wholly comprised of women they absolutely HATE.

    But I believe you missed the most surefire female host genre: The woman of color. As a black woman I’d like to point out that the least threatening and most memorable and likable female TV hosts to get hired are generally slightly overweight, asexual, age indeterminate Black women. If she’s married, that’s even better, however, NOT married to someone famous or too powerful. Someone who’s not too traditionally pretty, or too loud, or too skinny, too trendy, or too Real Housewifey and married a temporary millionaire. More like someone that the office would nickname “Mama” despite the fact that she is has no kids and is only 32. That kind of personality. Iyanla is the classic example of this type of woman. Warm, nurturing, classy, educated, worldly. I once had an Intern who is only 30, and she behaves, speaks and carries herself as if she’s in her late 40’s. She is also black, very ambitious, very cute, sharp as a whip, and carrying a few inoffensive extra pounds. We WILL see her hosting her own national show someday.

    These women aren’t threatening. They’ve been smart to cultivate that friendly “just like us” and “girlfriend” vibe that works with everyone, men women children – any race, any age. Thank you Oprah. I should also point out that most women of any color are (stupidly) not threatened sexually by your “average” black woman. And if that black woman also has a little love for her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, then you have officially neutralized any remaining threat. Game over.

    Another non-threatening host genre is the semi-asexual, age indeterminate Asian woman. I apologise to all my Asian sisters in advance for this. Yes, they’re very likable, albeit somewhat rare. Think Lisa Ling. But they don’t even seem to have had vaginas installed when they were originally packaged for television. Like their sexuality has to be purchased as an add-on package when you hire your special, Asian Edition, no specific Asian race, accent-free TV Host. But no one ever places the order, and they remain unmarried and career-driven forever. No, Connie Chung doesn’t count.

    No apparent vagina = no threat.

    And it doesn’t matter if we’re referring to the opinions of white female viewers. It is my opinion that my thoughts about female hosts work universally for all women. And honestly, a lot of men – particularly gay men.

    Look around at any stable of host and co-hosts that have come and gone. Who had the staying power, and who got called into the news director’s office every week for hate mail about their cleavage, clothes or hair? Of course, you have to make concessions for the varied regional market tastes. But on a broader, national scale, it really makes you wonder how many TV Execs have currently earmarked millions for their 2017 budget and are currently salivating over the thought of developing a new show called “Michelle” slated for Fall 2017.

    But I have to disagree that these female hosts “don’t even realize” that these shows are revolving around them. They KNOW. Boy, do the they ever. I can say from personal experience that behind the scenes, their warm, comforting, nurturing TV presence eventually dissolves into a typhoon of diva behavior, demands, selfishness and just overall unpleasantness for everyone – from Interns to VP’s. It’s AWFUL. The longer their pampered fat butts sit in the host chair collecting even fatter paychecks, they get to watch their ND’s and/or EP’s scraping and bowing and practically genuflecting – breaking their necks to give in to their every whim that the budget will allow. Yeah. They know it. And so does everyone else who has the misfortune of watching their egos swell along with the tantrums.

    This is relevant to this topic because eventually that type of behavior surfaces in your show when her co-hosts recoil from the sound of her voice after every commercial, and their body language on the set seems as if everyone just wrapped up a HUGE fight and is looking for a sharp object – either for defense or to put themselves out of their own misery. Give a diva too much power over your show, and even worse yet, give her a title like EP or Director of Something, and you have just signed your show’s death certificate.

    I’m sure there has to be a balance between allowing a lead host to be herself, have fun and run the show without running it into the ground. That negative energy IS tangible. And it stinks up the room.

    And one last thing: on the contrary, I have found that many of those Femme Fatale-type hosts tend to be the sweetest, most agreeable talent to work with. They know what they stand for and they know why they were hired. They also know that their days may be numbered based on which hot body part is trending right now. So why not corral everyone into their side of the cheering section for the next time her contract rolls around? It’s like they try to balance their hotness with a humility and affability that will feed and encourage those around her. That way no one can say a bad thing about her. Regardless of the reason, it really does create a pleasant work environment.

    Anyway, that’s my brevity-free (and admittedly somewhat racist) reply to your post. It may not be nice, but it’s honest and that’s why they call it an OPINION (although, from experience, I personally call it a TREND).

    Now, go pitch “Michelle!”

  2. “GG” – since I’m sharing my opinions and experiences on this blog, I will not edit yours. I thank you for your thoughts – and I hope your note sparks a conversation with my readers. -Ray

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