"Perhaps in no other type of news programming is on-air chemistry as important as morning television."

“Perhaps in no other type of news programming is on-air chemistry as important as morning television.”
That was the quote from a Los Angeles Times article on the pairing of Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira on the Today Show. The article went on to say that the Today show built its huge winning streak largely on the repartee of Lauer and the departing Couric. When Couric decided to leave, the network brass placed a priority on finding someone who would have that chemistry with ML. They think they’ve found that person. Wow. What a concept. When bringing in somebody to replace an on-air person who is departing, find someone who has chemistry with the current anchors/hosts. Too many times those who do the hiring want to bring in a face for the least amount of money and then tell everybody to deal with it because that’s the way it’s going to be. Hey, people at home aren’t stupid. They see what works and what doesn’t. You can only fake the sincerity for so long before the viewers catch on, especially if the on-air people are together for two to three hours at a time. The article went on to say that people like to see a little good natured ribbing and teasing among the hosts/anchors. It shows the viewers those folks on TV are indeed real people after all.

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10 Comments on “"Perhaps in no other type of news programming is on-air chemistry as important as morning television."”

  1. MJ Says:

    I agree completely. I’ve written you in the past about a local morning show that seems to fall in the “other” category. It’s all cotton candy (sugar and air). The fake smiles, forced enthusiams and station propaganda makes me sick. On the flip side, the other local morning shows “seem” fine and very genuine.

    Even though it’s been a while since i posted, I’ve really been enjoying the blog.

  2. Joe Larkins Says:

    Thanks for the comment and the encouragement. I’ve considered pulling the plug on this blog as I fear it has “jumped the shark”. I think I’ll hang in there for a while longer.

  3. mj Says:

    I certainly hope you don’t end the blog. Yours is one of the first i check every morning. I consider required reading material. It’s one of the few blogs out there that give a “real” feel for the memphis TV scene. I don’t know why i find it fascinating, but i do. I’m sure there’s a lot of other people out there that feel like i do. Don’t sell yourself short!

  4. Average Guy Says:

    Devil’s advocate — regardless of chemistry, shouldn’t talent be professional in their approach to co-workers? Teammates do not have to like each other to win. They just have to execute their role as flawlessly and professionally as possible. Could it be the lack of chemistry is more selfishness, immaturity and the talent not understaning their particular role?

    Just asking.

    The GM

  5. Joe Larkins Says:

    Yes, professionalism is important. But I think you will agree as a TV exec AND a viewer that when the on-camera chemistry is working, it can be “magic”, to quote a consultant. While professionals can learn to “fake the sincerity”, viewers are not as dim-witted as some make them out to be and they can tell when the on-camera mojo is working and when it is not. It’s the little, subtle things that can add up to make the difference among viewers saying “those folks on Channel X just seem so real. They seem like they are talking directly to me and I think I’d like to have them over to the house for a visit”. In my opinion, you can’t fake that. That’s why you can have some Ken and Barbie Dolls who are easy on the eyes but don’t click and you can have a couple of average looking folks who click on air. All other things being equal, chances are, in the long run the average looking folks will earn the viewers.
    Also, if chemistry isn’t too terribly important, why do you suppose NBC brass was practically wetting themselves over their new Today show team. Their are plenty of professionals out there. Remember Jane whats-her-name who co-hosted with Bryant Gumbal on CBS’ morning show. She looked nice, and in my opinion had no chemistry with BG. Where is she now?

  6. Average Guy Says:

    I don’t disagee — just playing devil’s advocate. I happen to believe the viewer is remarkably perceptive and can see beyond what is on the screen. Viewers can tell when morale is low and a newsroom is tense. Afterall, they are inviting these people into their living room every evening.

    Chemistry is important but so is professionalism and maturity. I just hate to see the “chemistry” argument come out when the problem in reality is ego.

    The key to hiring good talent is finding that person whose personality and presence comes through the screen. It is one of those things that one cannot define but he knows it when he sees it.

    The GM

    P.S. I’d hire you Joe.

  7. Joe Larkins Says:

    Fair enough.
    As to your P.S., you must be a gutsy guy.

  8. jamey tucker Says:

    Today show chemistry has been good with K&M. But for years in the early to mid-90s I had the pleasure to watch KTLA in Los Angeles with Carlos Amezcua and Barbara Beck.

    I had one of those 12-foot dishes, worked night-side and enjoyed these two for 4 solid hours every morning. The chemistry between those two and the rest of the KTLA team was unlike any I have ever seen. They poked fun at each other and teased one another to the point most folks would get ticked off. But it was the most real tv news show I’ve ever watched.
    Their show had much of the same morning news fluff that all of the others have, but something kept making me, not only tune in each morning, but continue watching for hours!

    I agree with the GM, it does have a lot to do with professionalism and maturity, but I think the larger part is just what makes two friends more than just acquaintances. Chemistry. If it’s real. If they really like each other when the red-light is off, viewers can tell. And they do like it. That ought to be worth more in the eyes of management during hiring and during promotion and re-ups.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    I miss working with the morning team of Joe and Marybeth!

    The current one just doesn’t cut it. You can tell they don’t like each other. People who aren’t in TV have even told me so!

    I don’t tolerate egos well. I watch the people who get along and show it in their banter with each other.

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