- SHOW: Good Morning America (ABC)
- AIRDATE: Tuesday, November 3, 2015 7AM
- ANCHORS: Robin Roberts, George Stephanopoulos
- ENTERTAINMENT: Lara Spencer
- NEWSREADER: Amy Robach
- WEATHER: Ginger Zee
- ON-SET REPORTER: Tom Llamas
- LIVE REPORTERS: Alex Marquardt, David Kerley, Jim Avila, Steve Ganyard
- ON-SET GUESTS: Donald Trump
- LIVE STREAM: Here
- FULL DISCLOSURE: I was the Executive Producer of GMA Sunday during the late ’90’s. It was supposed to be a “dream job” but was instead just a miserable experience. I hold no grudges against ABC as I was paid very well and it was a big time learning experience. Also got to work with Robin Roberts who co-hosted my show, and George was on occasionally as a commentator, but I doubt he’d remember me.
I’m not in the habit of watching the network morning shows, mainly because they’re still 10-15 years behind the good local morning news shows. They lag behind in personality, uniqueness, risk-taking and story selection and they overkill international stories. While I have several issues with this episode of Good Morning America, I must admit is was a really good show – a really good content-driven show. There were a lot of good elements. But this hour went nowhere in terms of enhancing its personalities. This show was a non-stop freight train of news and live shots and guests and teases. There was no time for the talent to breathe, much less ad lib anything. I doubt Robin Roberts or George Stephanopoulos said two words that weren’t scripted for them on the prompter. I also think the Donald Trump interview was a major missed opportunity.
The show began with heavily dramatized voice overs:
- Ben Caron’s lead
- Trump in studio
- a western winter storm
- passengers kicked off an airplane
- Robin Williams widow talking about what really killed the star.
Coming out to the 4-shot of the “family” on-set, we immediately went to:
- b-roll of Donald Trump arriving earlier outside the studio – although it was presented as if “this is happening right now”.
From there, the show barrels by you as if you’re sitting in your car with the railroad crossing gates down, watching a freight train passing by in front of you. It’s all a blurrrrrr.
- Tom Llama on-set at the big screen talking about Ben Carson’s lead in the polls. Tom came across as having one too many Red Bulls before the show. To say he was animated is a huge understatement.
- Over to George with a live, on-set Donald Trump interview. I’m going to save my thoughts about the Trump coverage for later.
- Alex Marquardt live from Egypt on the Russian plane crash.
- Robin does a live interview with an aviation expert about the crash
- David Kerley live with a bunch of passengers kicked off an airplane because they were a bit too rowdy, but the passengers claim it was racism.
- Ginger Zee with an on-set package about a western storm
- Amy Robach with the “Top stories”. (Didn’t we just do those?)
- Transgendered Teen Locker Room
- Bangkok Fireball
- Coffee Shop only serving decaf
- Military Honors
- :30 Second MiniBreak
- Robin to Jim Avila package & live tag about paid patriotism at sports events
- Robin Williams Widow + Soundbite
- Donald Trump in studio
- Local News Cutin
- Half-Hour Reopen Teases
- Russian Plane
- Amazon Paid Leave
- Jesse Palmer in-Studio tease
- Robin Williams Widow – Amy at the big screen with Package
- George Live In-Studio interview with Donald Trump
- Jesse Palmer on-set with kid suspended after praying on football field
- Sleepwalking Teen
- End of 7AM
This 7AM hour was wall to wall content. There was no personality permitted. It was 100% content driven. George and Robin were relegated to traffic cops, just reading 10-second intros to packages and live shots. The top of the 8AM show indicated to me that, OK, that’s the playful hour, as each of the guys on the desk were holding puppies. So I’m guessing the game plan is to make the 7AM news heavy, and the 8AM the fun hour. Which I think is a mistake. And here’s why.
Viewers at home, be it at 7AM or 8AM, are getting ready for work, dressing, brushing their teeth, feeding their kids. Their immediate goals are to get the kids off to school, get themselves off to work, and figure out what to have for dinner tonight. No one is wondering, “Gee, what caused that Russian plane to crash?” They don’t care. This is a perfect example of the network shows going overkill on international stories. The story deserved a :20-second VO at best. Instead, Alex Marquardt was live from Egypt with VO video, followed by Robin’s debriefing of an aviation expert live from DC. That was 2:05 minutes that could have been better spent on the personalities. Same with the Spirit Airlines story which, in my opinion, was no big deal. Dumping that was another 1:40 that could have gone to enhancing their hosts. The paid patriotism story could also have been held until tomorrow.
The show, in the viewers’ eyes, becomes this Jekyll and Hyde format – one minute, breathless coverage about some foreign plane crash, and the next, puppies licking your hosts’ faces. If viewers wanted a barrage of news, they’d be tuned to CNN. They’re turning on GMA to spend their morning with Robin and George and the gang, and the 7AM “just the facts ma’am” format denies them that. ABC is too concerned about what Today is doing. And if Today is making a big deal of the Russian plane crash, gee, why aren’t we? It’s that layer after layer of management at the networks that keep the showrunners constantly being second guessed – their judgement questioned, formats changing and the showing becoming a “compromise” to keep management happy. I haven’t watched this date’s episode of Today yet, but I’m willing to bet its 7AM is more news heavy than its 8AM, which is why we see this reflected on ABC and/or vice versa.
Now on to Donald Trump. This one-on-one interview between Donald and George was GMA in “default” mode. The thinking is, when you’ve got a big guest, pair them off with either George or Robin. Now, remember, that Donald has been all over TV. Everyone’s interviewed him ad infinitum about his positions on all the issues. There was no new news value coming out of George’s interview – simply because Trump has answered all these questions over and over again. The smart thing to do – the risk-taking thing to do is to dump the one-on-one, and put Trump on the set, the “kitchen table” if you will, with George, Robin, Lara and Ginger. Make it a gang-bang interview. The reason is, each of those four will approach Trump from a different viewpoint. George will ask Trump the political question, Robin may ask Trump about his kids and family, Lara may ask Trump if, once he’s president, if he might paint the white house yellow. And Ginger may take the conversation off to a tangent none of us could predict. Putting Trump with ALL of your main talent heightens their profile in the eyes of the viewers, and it allows each one’s personality to come out in their own way. Example:
In the early ‘90’s, during the first Gulf War, we had General Colin Powell live in the studio as a guest on the KTLA Morning News. Carlos Amezcua and Barbara Beck were interviewing Powell at the main news desk, the “kitchen table”. Powell was in the chair on the right – the chair entertainment host Sam Rubin usually occupies. Carlos and Barbara were in the middle, and weatherman Mark Kriski was in the left chair. That’s where he hung out, even though he wasn’t part of the interview. Barbara and Carlos began debriefing Powell about the war, his strategy, all the serious questions you would pose to a war general. Then, during a lull in the conversation, Mark jumped in with his own question. We were all a bit taken by surprise because we didn’t plan to have Mark part of the interview. But he was right there on set, so what the hell! His question, hand to God, was,
“So General, are you a Regular or Extra Crispy kind of guy?”
Barbara and Carlos were momentarily stunned. WTF? You don’t ask a war general a ridiculous question like that. Powell sat there a moment, as if dazed. Then a huge smile came to his face as he said,
“Well, Extra Crispy, of course!”
Everyone, including us in the control room, burst out laughing. With that simple question and the General’s answer, Mark humanized Colin Powell. Mark brought him to a level we all could relate to. And the General was more than happy to let his guard down. The remainder of the interview was more of a shoot-the-breeze session with the General. It was one of those “magic moments” I still remember all these years later. That “accident” defined how we did the majority of interviews on KTLA morning forward.
That’s a lesson for all producers. Learn from these accidents. GMA’s producers shouldn’t be focusing so much on what Today is doing, but they should be scouring local newscasts all across the country to see what’s working – and adapting those ideas into their format.
While I’m only reviewing the 7AM of GMA and Today, I looked ahead to the 8AM and I really liked a Lara Spencer “camera walk” where she left the studio and walked outside to the crowd where people were holding puppies. With the music and excitement of the crowd, it was a moment that was very much alive and Lara worked it really well. Those kind of moments need to be brought into the 7AM to lighten it up and viewers a breather from all of that news coverage.
I’m giving this show a -6- simply because GMA’s personality-driven format was chucked in favor of an overabundance of content. Personalities are what drive these morning shows, and GMA took a wrong turn along the way.