Charlie Rose, Gayle King to head up new CBS News morning show

November 15, 2011

CBS News’s new, as-yet-unnamed morning program will debut Jan. 9 and will star PBS interviewer Charlie Rose at 7 a.m. and Oprah BFF Gayle King at 8, the network officially announced Tuesday.

“The Early Show” holdover Erica Hill will join Charlie in the first hour, when the program focuses more on hard news for the full hour.

Before Tuesday’s announcement — when the show was just the worst-kept secret in the network news business — word on the street was that CBS News would try, again, to get out from under NBC’s “Today” show and ABC’s “Good Morning America.” But this time, CBS would have a more serious, news-driven show than those competitors, which have become increasingly fluffy.

You’ll know right away that this program’s not cut from the same cloth, CBS News suits said Tuesday afternoon at a news conference, because of its shocking lack of a jolly weatherman working the crowd outdoors, petting-zoo style.

Chris Licht, the former “Morning Joe” producer at MSNBC who joined CBS News in June as vice president for programming, will retain that role while exec-producing the morning program — in much the same way that Jeff Fager is chairman of CBS News and exec producer of “60 Minutes.”

Fager said he asked Charlie to do the show because, he said, Charlie is the closest thing there is these days to “60 Minutes” great Mike Wallace. And because Fager said he misses working with Mike, and Mike was one of Charlie’s biggest fans — but as big as Charlie is. Charlie wanted attendees to know that Scott Pelley, now anchor of the CBS evening newscast, likes to say he knew Charlie Rose before he was Charlie Rose.

Charlie is keeping his PBS gig and so will “be able to paint on two canvases,” he said. Without breaking a sweat, Charlie worked in the name of late Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs, by way of explaining the similarities between creating this new program and Jobs thinking up the iPad and iPhone.

Charlie also dropped the name of Facebook CEO and co-creator Mark Zuckerberg — seems Charlie recently had lunch with him at a conference, and Gayle was there, too. Gayle jumped in as Charlie was talking to Zuckerberg. Charlie later told CBS News brass: “She’s a very impressive young woman.”

Charlie also wanted attendees to know that he has found Erica to be a “surprisingly funny and interesting person.”

Gayle confided that she got goose bumps walking into the same building that housed all those newscasting greats such as Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow. And she wanted to wear a pretty dress as befitted the occasion, because she likes color — only the dress was too tight, so she went back and “put on another Spanx” and now “I can’t breathe but I’m in the dress.”

Gayle also let it be known that she’s friends with all the folks on “Morning Joe” and “Good Morning America” and “Today” and that “to be part of that club is very special to me.”

Gayle’s dropping her satellite radio show — which means her telecast of that radio show that runs on the Oprah Winfrey Network is also going away — in order, she said, to focus on the CBS News program “150 percent” — except for whatever percent she’s set aside to continue to devote to Oprah’s O magazine, on which Gayle is editor at large.

One reporter bravely noted that Charlie and Gayle have “niche audiences,” and wondered why CBS News suits thought millions of people would tune in to watch them.

Fager said the new show will give them a chance to “spread their wings and show the rest of the country how good they can be.”

Charlie and Gayle weren’t about to take that lying down.

Charlie wanted people to know the show would attract “all the quality people” who currently come to his PBS program.

And Gayle said Oprah herself is “very well aware” of her having accepted the job, and “is certainly cheering me on,” though she didn’t see the point of bringing Oprah on the show for the sake of bringing Oprah on.

Anyway, Charlie stepped in and said if Gayle didn’t ask Oprah to be on the show he would; then Gayle declared the new program not “an Oprah-free zone.”

The Penn State ‘get’

If you land what is maybe the biggest news “get” in ages, but it airs on NBC in prime time, did it actually happen?

The magnitude of the damage that has been done to the once-dominant but now-mired-in-fourth-place NBC over the past several years was made painfully clear Monday night, when its stunning coup — the first interview with former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky since the sex-abuse scandal accusations came to light — copped a paltry 3.9 million people.

At the same time, 12.4 million were watching ABC’s canned “20/20” special detailing Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’s recovery since the Arizona Democrat was shot in the head in January.

That’s a whopping 218 percent bigger crowd than tuned in to NBC’s “Rock Center” interview with Sandusky, in which he admitted to “showering and horsing around with young boys” and said he’s innocent of 40 counts of sexually abusing eight boys.

NBC had had only a few hours in which to promote its late-breaking interview on an unfolding and highly incendiary story.

Of course, a network’s most efficient means of quickly promoting some huge “get” is on its own air. But sadly for NBC, a paltry 4.2 million people were watching the network’s former holiday program turned fourth-quarter player, “The Sing Off,” between 8 and 10 p.m. Monday.

Meanwhile, in those same two hours, ABC was promoting the heck out of its Giffords piece to a massive “Dancing With the Stars’” audience of 18 million.

Joe Paterno’s onetime defensive coordinator, and founder of a charity to help at-risk youths, has been charged with 40 counts of sexually abusing eight boys dating back as far as 1994. A grand jury report detailed claims of alleged sexual encounters with young boys in Sandusky’s house, in hotels and in Penn State locker rooms.

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