This is incredible feedback Ray! And you have so many of the realities that are holding the show back just dialed. But also some great things that we can work on right away. Once again, I can’t thank you enough for taking the time and offering your expertise! I’d love to work with you at some point, I feel like you’re a complete game changer.
Recently, a news anchor from the left coast contacted me, asking for feedback about his local morning show. It’s not all that important which station it is or the talent names, so many station have very similar problems. So I duplicated my response to him, inserting generic names, in hopes this feedback may apply to you and your show as well!
Hi Andy Anchorman,
A lot to talk about. I realize that a lot of things I will discuss are out of your control. I also realize that the News Director may be dictating a lot of the show formatting – and in fact, the News Director MAY NOT WANT this show to be more personality driven, so despite what I may think, make sure any changes you make are OK with the boss before making them.
My initial thoughts are that this is a very typical “affiliate” morning show. Lots of weather and traffic, some news headlines, a news live shot and a feature live shot. You and Alicia Anchorwoman are the main anchors… you two should be running the show, do the news, and be the traffic cops, tossing to the various segments. But watching this show, Tammy Traffic is the main anchor BY FAR. She’s the one tossing to Lisa LiveReporter, she’s the one tossing to breaks, she’s the one doing the birthday celebrations, she’s the one doing the Christmas-centric interview. What is that about? There was a stretch of 24 minutes where we did not see Alicia Anchorwoman at all. That is really bad producing. Tammy Traffic should always toss back to you and Alicia Anchorwoman and you toss to Lisa LiveReporter and breaks.
You and Alicia Anchorwoman are driving this bus, Tammy Traffic and Wendy Weatherwoman and Nick NewsReporter and Betsy BusinessReporter and Lisa LiveReporter and the on-set guests are all stops along the way – stops that you two make.
When a segment is over it all comes back to you two – with the only possible exception of Wendy Weatherwoman tossing to Tammy Traffic. Otherwise, everything begins and ends with you two.
Another issue is you’re all separated. Tammy Traffic and Wendy Weatherwoman have their little set areas, but they should always begin and end at the desk with you two. The family has to be gathered around the kitchen table throughout the show. You toss to Wendy Weatherwoman at the table, she then goes off to her green screen, she tosses to Tammy Traffic, and then Tammy Traffic returns to the table with you, Alicia Anchorwoman and Wendy Weatherwoman there. There’s a lot of those full screen animations used – “News Brief” and “Weather” etc. Those to me are just like throwing up walls – they separate. In fast-paced newscasts they’re fine. But in personality driven shows, they’re road blocks that divide and kill the conversation.
Waaaaaay tooooooo much weather. I realize that research says to do lots of weather. I have no problem doing lots of weather HITS, but this long, extended 2:30 weather segments (that feel like 4 minutes) just kill any flow. One long weather hit a half hour, the rest should be :30 second hits saying here’s what it’ll be today, here’s what it’ll be tomorrow. Long weather segments often indicate that you do not have enough writing or producing staff to create more news content, so weather goes long to eat up that time.
The chat out of the open was short, but good. But I didn’t get any real personality from any of you because of the animation divides or they were moving you along. The one key personality spot was between you and Betsy BusinessReporter talking about Periscope. But this exchange was kinda awkward for one of two reasons I can’t identify – either because the satellite delay got in the way of the conversation, or because Betsy BusinessReporter just isn’t any good chatting. I would have liked to have seen some interaction between you and Alicia Anchorwoman being given that much time. Periscope by the way, you could have had your smart phone turned on and begin Periscoping “live” while you were talking about it. Maybe tell viewers you will keep periscoping throughout the show and they can watch all of you and what you do during commercial breaks. Try it. Take some risks. Not everything will work, but most will and it makes for more compelling TV.
In my opinion, you should always chat with your live reporters. Whether it’s asking Nick NewsReporter a question after his report, or (if the story is lighter) commenting on his weird hat or ask how the weather is out there. You’ve got to have a rapport with him and Lisa LiveReporter beyond a simple toss. With Lisa LiveReporter especially, the director may keep your mics open during her reports so you guys can freely comment from the desk… “wow, Lisa LiveReporter, you’re really a good rider” or whatever… Lisa LiveReporter is low key and needs more energy, and if your mics were open throughout, you can add more of that energy. You could have challenged her to race the other guy on the horse, or to ride side saddle – whatever….. Excuse my language, but “fuck” with these people. Catch them off guard, challenge them to do something they weren’t expecting, ask them some crazy question, whatever.
The problem here is that all of you guys on set are “too polite”. You’re polite to each other. Politeness implies formality. You don’t want to be formal. You want to be casual – to be friends, and friends “fuck” with each other and laugh a lot with each other and talk over each other and interrupt each other. Don’t be an asshole…. But don’t be “polite”.
The other issue that’s holding you back is the directing. Your director is NOT directing “in the moment”. He’s directing one segment ahead, meaning he’s always making sure the robocam for the next segment is in place ahead of time. So instead of cutting the show like a talk show, following the conversation, cut by cut, camera by camera, he sits on 2-shots because his extra cameras are already in place for Wendy Weatherwoman and Tammy Traffic. I’m assuming you have three robos. If that’s the case do this: come out of the show open teases with all four of you on-set for the hello and a little conversation. All three cameras should be shooting the action on-set, cut, cut, cut following the conversation. When it’s time, Wendy Weatherwoman begins weather by going to a full screen of current temps or something. While you’re on the F/S, she is walking to the green screen and her camera is moving in place for the green screen shot. Tammy Traffics camera can also be moving to the traffic set, but it gives the director a free hand to cut the show with the four of you talking out of the open. The director likely will hate this idea either, a) because he’s lazy and cutting the show as you ad lib it is a challenge because it means having to do more work than to just press a spacebar for the next pre-programmed shot, or b) because he’s not a strong director, can’t cut a show, and prefers to have all his cameras in their next position to be safe. So that is an issue you guys will need to decide how to handle. Also keep in mind, some News Directors demand “clean” shows, meaning no technical screw-ups. If that’s the environment you’re in, it’s a problem because clean shows usually mean no risks were taken in the show – and if the director gets chewed out for technical mistakes, he’s not going to take any risks with his cameras or his directing.
The closeup are too wide – almost down to your belly button. I prefer much, much tighter closeups.
There wasn’t a lot of news in the show. The news brief at :15 minutes was a recap of the stories we just saw at the top of the show, story by story. Maybe keep the same lead but change up the other news brief stories. Also, no entertainment/Hollywood news, no tech news, no pop culture, no medical, no “women” stories – women are your audience. No virals or cool videos to show. The lead story about budget cuts – while important – is dull dull dull. There’s never good video with budget cut stories. I know you’ll think I’m crazy but if the mountain lion story was a local story, I would have led with that. A mountain lion on the loose, pets in danger, a good “holy shit” story with decent video of mountain lions….. Viewers would get sucked in to that story, could have been live with Nick NewsReporter with a mountain lion at the zoo or something…. It’s unusual and bizarre – perfect opportunity for a lead rather than the same ole same ole.
The murder suicide story was a good teasable story…. Should have been teased throughout the first half hour.
Your producer has you both reading the lead story. I think that looks really small market. I prefer after the hello chat, just one of you tosses to and from Nick NewsReporter. I also prefer only one anchor lead-in and lead-out of the live shot. So I would have stacked Alicia Anchorwoman do the Nick NewsReporter live shot alone, Andy Anchorman do the Betsy BusinessReporter live shot alone, and then both do the Lisa LiveReporter live shot together with your mics open throughout. Your producer ping pongs you and Alicia Anchorwoman when he stacks the show. He has Andy Anchorman read one story, then Alicia Anchorwoman read one story, then Andy Anchorman read one story and Alicia Anchorwoman read one story. It flows better when anchors read two stories back to back and then switch anchors.
The celebrations-birthdays segment should have been done by all 4 of you at the desk (kitchen table).
Andy Anchorman, put down the pen. You’re playing with it throughout the show. Do not fold your hands. Take your right arm and stretch it out lengthwise against the desk, saying “I own this desk”. Touch each other once in a while (Alicia Anchorwoman, grab that pen out of his hand on-air). Look at each other more often and tilt your bodies towards each other slightly more than you do now. Come up with “running jokes” that play throughout the show, or that sometimes play show to show. Perhaps it drives Alicia Anchorwoman nuts that Andy Anchorman plays with his pen, so she’s always grabbing it from him and throwing it across the studio. Doesn’t matter what it is- a pen, Alicia Anchorwoman’s iphone keeps beeping – something things just happen. When they do, go with it and play with it. There was no real social media on the show. Do you have Facebook accounts? Have viewers try to stump Andy Anchorman daily with a tough question, or each day Alicia Anchorwoman shows some funny video from your archives 30-years ago today… have some fun. And laugh.
It’s hard critiquing you and Alicia Anchorwoman’s performances because besides reading a few stories, you didn’t have much to do. The Butler interview/demo was OK and it was great that you were both a part of it. You could have expanded it through all 4 hours and made him your personal Butler throughout the show…. Making him `bring you a glass of water on camera before the break, and later, asking him to brush Tammy Traffic’s hair on camera cuz there’s a few strand out of place, and later, calling your mother on camera to wish her happy birthday for you…. Whatever you can come up with. Just take all the “toys” that are available to you in any give show… and run with them. Have newspapers and ipads and magazines and all kinds of crap on the desk. It’s too sterile. Get caught “reading the newspaper” when Tammy Traffic tosses back from traffic, or be on the phone with your best friend who just went into labor. Make shit happen. Have a mountain lion in the studio. Find some cute mountain lion videos on youtube and play them and have a bit of a mountain lion themed show. Put Nick NewsReporter on mountain lion-watch and keep going back to him to see if there have been any mountain lion sightings… Have the graphic artist create a photo of Wendy Weatherwoman in a mountain lion-print skirt. That’s where the mountain lion is!
Hope this helps! Find something to be passionate about. Express some opinions on non-controversial subjects, give us more wit and more energy! Work with what you have available to you. And push your producer and director to experiment more – and always let the News Director know you’re going to try some new things – never surprise your boss!