- SHOW: Good Day L.A., KTTV, Los Angeles, Fox O&O
- AIRDATE: Monday, November 2, 2015 7AM
- ANCHORS: Steve Edwards, Maria Sansone, Araksya Karapetyan
- LIVE REPORTER: Mario Ramirez
- LIVE REPORTER: Sandra Endo
- LIVE DC REPORTER: Doug Luzader
- ON-SET ENTERTAINMENT: Julie Chang
- TRAFFIC IN CHOPPER: Rick Dickert
- WEATHER: Maria Quiban
- FULL DISCLOSURE: I worked with Steve Edwards briefly more than 10 years ago on a talk show pilot for Fox. I also competed against Good Day LA for 7 years (whipping their butts) when I showran the original KTLA Morning News in the ’90’s.
- LIVE STREAM: Here
This is actually the first time I’ve watched GDLA since the Dorothy Lucey era. Let’s hope the show still has her number on speed-dial. They need her. Acutely. If you haven’t seen the current incarnation of GDLA, let me bring you up to speed. The show still features Steve Edwards as its lead host. He’s a veteran of the broadcast since 1995. He’s smooth, likable, and very solid when it comes to breaking news coverage. He’s a pro. And he’s carrying the show every day on his shoulders. Now, in addition to Steve, there’s a stable of fine lookin’ ladies hangin’ out on set. They’re false eyelash-wearin’, earring-danglin’, cleavage-peekin’, pump-straddlin’, lip gloss-glistenin’, hair-tossin’, Botox-injectin’ Allessandra Ambrosio wanna-bees who are all about style. But that’s OK, cuz, remember, Steve is the substance. So that’s covered. But there’s something missing. For the producers to pull off the show they think they’re producing, they need an essential ingredient they totally forgot to cast for: attitude. The show ain’t got no ‘tude. If GDLA is going to own this “hottie” format – there’s got to be as much attitude dripping from the screen as there is mascara. The attitude left when Jillian Barberie did. All they got now is a bunch of nice, hot girls chattering with Steve about terrorism and health care and the legal drinking age and all kinds of things they know absolutely nothing about. If you wanna be the Melrose Place of morning news, you need a Heather Locklear. All you got right now is a studio full of Courtney-Thorne Smiths.
That’s where GDLA has failed, over and over again – in the hiring of its female talent (Ms. Lucey excluded). They continue to overlook and undervalue the key component of a successful morning show – a warm female co-host. If you haven’t read my post on “The Female Factor” – the qualities needed in a successful female co-host – read it now so you understand where I’m going.
In some ways, GDLA is in the same boat as the Today show. It has a strong, long-running male co-host in Steve Edwards who needs to be paired with a solid, warm female co-host. Normally when casting a morning show, you start by finding the right female co-host and then surrounding her with the ensemble. But because it’s the female that’s missing and a strong male is already in place, any new female brought in to the mix is automatically going to be become a subordinate to the male co-host. It’s unavoidable. And that puts the show off-balance. Today’s answer was to hire Savannah Guthrie – who’s a mere shadow next to Matt Lauer. GDLA’s answer was to surround Steve with a bevy of babes. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with these types of women. They’re just in the wrong daypart. These gals appeal to male viewers and millennials, neither of whom watch morning TV. And yes, they do appeal to women 18-49 in fast-paced, heavily-posted celebrity and fashion oriented magazine shows. They don’t belong at the “kitchen table” so to speak, because model-types rarely eat breakfast.
The “kitchen table” is the home base of any morning news show. It’s the center of the show where the family congregates throughout the morning. When guests arrive, they join everybody at the kitchen table instead of moving over to a “formal living room” area. But let’s dissect the chosen set. It’s essentially bi-polar podiums – one east, one west – with a pseudo news-desk in between. Steve stands the entire show at the east podium, looking down on the gals who sit at the desk – putting them in a visually subordinate position. The west podium is the guest podium. It’s used when reporters or other staffers make on-set appearances. When it’s time for the family to come together, or when guests arrive, instead of congregating at their kitchen table, which isn’t built for that purpose, they have to move to the formal living room set. Sets are supposed to promote inclusion. This one separates and divides. Mistake.
Another mistake is that the show does not font the names of its three main talent. Their names weren’t even mentioned verbally until :53 minutes in, so I had to Google search for their names –which a viewer wouldn’t bother to do . The GDLA website has no mention of its hosts’ names. The KTTV website has no splash banner of its talent. But it did have a hard-to-find staff section with itty bitty photos, so I went to the wiki page to figure out who these people are. There, I read that Maria Sansone is supposedly the co-host to Steve. I would never have known that from watching the show, a) because she’s separated from Steve in a way that wouldn’t allow the two of them together on a 2-shot and, b) because of her actual role in the show. Her duties in the hour I watched were to read two voice overs – one about the Russian plane crash and the other about California health insurance. Apart from those two reads, the only thing she had left to do was to comment on things. When Steve says something, she comments. So I suppose she’s mainly a commenter.
Next to Maria is a gal named Araksya Karapetyan (I don’t know how to say it either). Her contribution to the show was equal to Maria’s – she read two voice overs – an Arizona earthquake and an Uber driver attack. Aside from those duties, she, too, was a commenter. Is she a tri-anchor? Or a co-commenter? I can’t say. But in the second half hour of the show, when there was yet more news to be read, they brought a guy in from the newsroom to stand at the west podium (the guest podium) to read those new news stories. I’m guessing that Maria and Araksya have solid contracts limiting them to two reads each per hour, and thus the need to bring in another newsreader.
Julie Chang pops up at the west podium occasionally. As the entertainment newsreader, she played a handout trailer for a Ron Howard film. She then ran some award speeches and recut a Vo-Sot from the 10pm show about Reese Witherspoon. Julie tried to “create” controversy by asking if 35 was too young to be given a lifetime achievement award. She comes across to me as a newsreader with no sources, no scoops, no stories that weren’t on the Fox feed or on entertainment websites. If any of the stories she presented were stories she dug up herself, she certainly didn’t share that fact. What value-added content did she bring to this show or to viewers working in the entertainment industry?
During the last segment in the hour, over on the “formal living room” set, yet another nameless lady joined the group. Steve rattled off their names, but all I caught was Marla. The topic for this Big Deal or No Big Deal chat session was the issue of California lowering the legal drinking age to 18. The discussion was rather pedestrian with no one clearly passionate one way or the other about the topic – which pretty much makes the whole purpose of doing this segment a moot point. No one shared a profound statement or a personal story that made me see the issue in a new light. So what’s the takeaway? There is none – but the segment has a sponsor, so money is coming in.
A few positives to point out. The show was beautifully directed. It was called like a talk show, cut, cut, cut – the cameras following the conversation. That’s how you direct a morning show. The first break didn’t hit until 7:28. That’s great for viewers. I’m curious about audience retention when the show takes a 2-minute break, returns with a :50 sports segment, and then goes to another 2-minute break. Do viewers stick around through all of that? Excellent call to have Rick Dickert reporting from the chopper. So many morning shows have dumped the chopper expense and put traffic people on set with maps. The chopper is a valuable personality all its own and it’s an essential tool for breaking news and storytelling. I question why Rick does a Rick-O-Meter, rating how nice the weather is when Maria Quiban is the weather gal. Shouldn’t she be rating the weather? There were three live reporters in the show. They each did a good job and the show had a decent story count overall. News coverage was certainly competitive for the market.
Fox continues to let this show meander on a destination to nowhere, day after day. There is absolutely no takeaway from the hour I watched. None. It’s clear GDLA wants to distinguish itself from its long-standing #1 competition, the KTLA Morning News. But you do that with unique signature segments and carefully selected news content. You do that with one compelling female co-host who’s got heart and warmth and class. But that’s not in the cards. Good Day L.A. desperately wants to be the edgy, cool, glamorous, fashion forward “hit show” it perceives it once was. But those days – if they ever came – are long gone. My score – 2 – the show’s got everything going for it except a vision.