When MSNBC’s morning talk show, “Morning Joe” (6-9 a.m.), debuted in May 2007, as a replacement for “Imus in the Morning” program following Don Imus’ “nappy headed ho” debacle, I was all in. I enjoyed host Joe Scarborough’s easygoing yet thoughtful style. The former Republican congressman was a welcomed change from the conservative to which we have become accustomed — one who is both intractable and bombastic. The Joe of “Morning Joe” was more like the Republicans that I know and the Republican that I am. So enthusatic I was about the program, I wrote two posts in praise of it. That was then and this is now. Nearly one year later, I can barely stand to watch the show. Scarborough has morphed into the kind of Republican I dislike –“the us-or-them”, “my way or the highway”, “I speak for the people” sort.
I still watch “Morning Joe” but often with the volume on mute. The show serves primarily as alarm clock, signaling the start of my day. From time to time, I turn up the volume, mainly during the “news” segments and at the beginning of interviews with people who are not members of the NBC News family. (At times, the show seems to be one endless promotion for NBC News/MSNBC programs and their hosts. I find the sound of ass-kissing and self-congratulation most annoying.) For all it’s worth, here are my general challenges with the show and possible remedies for what ails it.
The Co-hosts – MSNBC tried out many co-hosts before settling on Mika Brzezinski and Willie Geist who are both ineffectual and insipid. Brzezinski, who took a while to gain her footing, decided that she would serve best as the resident MILFy dumb blond. I don’t know any self-respecting 40-year-old professional who acts as childish as her. Brzezinski mugs for the camera, makes cutesy faces and makes very little sense when she attempts to form a counterargument. Guests have called Bzezinski cute, have compared her to Daisy Duke but have never said that she, in addition to being attractive, is also intelligent, a great interviewer or a exemplary newsperson. And for some reason for which I cannot comprehend, their lack of respect for her as a professional doesn’t seem to bother her one bit. I was stunned when Brzezinski during the middle of the show, walked across the room to plant a wet one on MSNBC head, Phil Griffin’s cheek and then returned to her seat. That’s one way of keeping your job. Bzezinski also likes to blantantly flirt with guests and guest hosts often staring at them dreamily. One morning, I fully expect to see her drop it like it’s hot some time between the news and the weather.
As for her relationship with Scarborough, it’s as if I am watching “The War of the Roses”. The name-calling, which they claim to be all in fun because they are “friends”, often becomes downright vicious. Scarborough calls, Brzezinski, “elitist” ,as a way of demeaning her and disregarding her feeble attempts to make cogent arguments. And, in what seems to be a very passive agressive way of exacting revenge, Brzezinski, has taken calling Scarborough, in so many words, “fat”. It is painfully obvious, that Scarborough is hurt by the remarks. Yes, he has gained quite a bit of weight since the show began and feels quite uncomfortable with his size but there is no good reason for her to degrade him in this manner. Her most recent hateful act was when she, following the show close, (“What Have We Learned Today?”) asked Scarborough to pick up some papers she had placed on the floor which were to be used in her upcoming news broadcast. It was as of she wanted to see him struggle as he complied with her request. Humilated, he refused, and walked away. If he were to comment negatively about her appearance, he would be called sexist and cruel. I am so very tired of “girls” posing as “women” who want to have it both ways.
My suggestion – Get rid of Brzezinski. Replace her with Tamron Hall of MSNBC Dayside. I liked Hall with Scarborough when she has subbed for Brzezinski. Hall is intelligent, fiesty without being combative, lighthearted without being lightheaded and had a great rapport with Scarborough.
And regarding co-host Willie Geist, the son of beloved news guy, Bill Geist of “CBS Sunday Morning”, he is totally out of his element. Truthfully, I am not quite sure what his “element” is and I have a sneaking suspicion that neither does he and has decided to go into the the family business just because. Geist is often left out or pushed aside when the grown folks start talking about weighty political matters. His “News You Can’t Use” segment, is his feeble attempt at some much needed levity.
My suggestion – Bye, bye Willie and hello Chuck Nice, comedian from VH-1’s “Best Week Ever”. He has served as a guest co-host on the show (but not when Scarborough was there) and has proven himself to be superintelligent, funny, knowledgeable and having the gravitas that both Brzezinski and Geist sorely lack.
The Host – Where do I begin? Scarborough comes across as angry and agitated most days. Gone is the lighthearted air of yesterday. It seems as if he’d rather be on his boat in sunny Pensacola, FL, his hometown, than hosting the show. He probably took the job because he thought that it was a good idea at the time and he needed the cash. Now, it seems that getting up at the crack of dawn, sitting in chair for three hours and talking to people, who are only somewhat interesting, about the same topics day after day, is getting really old. And unlike his NBC News colleagues, Tim Russert, Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews, he has no great love for the news business. Also, Scarborough’s “every man” schtick is tired. He knows as much about the everyday lives — the dreams, aspirations and struggles–of the “common” man as I do about calculus (For the record, I received 2 Ds in calculus.). He talks about the “white working class” in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania and why they won’t vote for Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama regardless of what they might tell pollsters and despite the Senator’s best efforts. Well, I know people from white working class Midwest families and they are not as narrowminded as Scarborough makes them out to be.
My suggestion – Management and Scarborough need to have a come to Jesus meeting to inquire about his commitment to the success of the show. It’s “either s**t or get off the pot” time. The show’s ratings still lag behind those of Imus’ when had the time slot. Scarborough has to take real ownership of the show which bears his name. What are his thoughts about how things are going? What kind of changes would he like to make? And for God sakes, tell him to stop mentioning that he was a “former Congressman” every other sentence. If he had real gravitas, he wouldn’t have to do so. Finally, if at all possible, management should mention the delicate subject of his weight. For both his emotional and physical well-being, he should be encouraged to lose weight and NBC News/MSNBC should give him some time off during the day to do so. The shedding of a few pounds would do wonders for his disposition. (Take it from a former fatty who knows.)
The Show – It’s poorly produced. A relative, who is a journalist, told me once that journalists are lazy. I am inclined to agree. They tend to contact people who are currently in their phone/email directory, rarely reaching out to anyone new and/or nteresting. As I mentioned before, the show often seems like a three-hour promo for MSNBC/NBC News. Enough already. I can think of so many people that I would love to see on the show like black conservative thinker, Hoover Institution fellow and author, of “A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited about Barack Obama and Why He Can’t Win”, Shelby Steele, who doesn’t get enough airtime on any channel. Bill Moyers interviewed Steele a couple of months ago and his thoughts about the election and Barack Obama were quite fascinating. Also, I want to hear from someone younger than 45. As a college instructor, I get the pleasure of talking to 18-20 somethings everyday and find the conversations enlightening and I am sure that America would as well.
I think I have said enough, or perhaps too much. As for tomorrow morning, I will tune in, mute on, waiting, hoping, for some (at the very least one) positive change, If it doesn’t come soon, I may just have to give up “Morning Joe”.