"Sunday Morning," the new 90-minute news and feature magazine that premiered yesterday on CBS, will be okay as soon as it falls out of love with itself. Since Charles Kuralt is the host, that may take a while.
"Here begins something new," Kuralt intoned at the opening of the show. He sounded like God rewriting Genesis. Such things tend to confirm one's creepiest suspicions about the pomposity index at CBS News. But the program itself, despite Kuralt's efforts to smother it in cracker-barrel bombast, proved an easily digestible mix of hard news, soft news, non-news and un-news.
Producer Robert "Shad" Northshield waxed reverential recently about his regard for the printed word and so, like "60 Minutes," the new morning show presents itself as a TV version of print, not as something of its own creation. There is a "cover story" -- this week, an overly blabby report on the pope's visit to Mexico by Richard Threlkeld -- and there are a number of columns, one a piece on "Jock Chic" by Blair Sabol, another purported television criticism by Jeff Greenfield, who wrote a coffeetable book on the subject.
At least Greenfield had a visual aid, a clip from a shaving cream commercial for his spiel on sexy ads, and he had the brass to knock CBS for its own smarmy slogans without being self-conscious about it. Otherwise, the columns are dull air, just as they were on "Weekend" (which dropped them) and Northshield will have to think of ways to spruce them up.
Loquacious feverafflicted all the participants. Morton Dean's sugary flag-waver about happy Vietnamese refugees in Phoenix gave us little chance to see the subjects without the obstructing intervention of the reporter's voiceover. It's not as if the correspondents were so witty, wry or agile that we hung on every one of their thousands of words; mostly they just say the sorts of things we expect TV reporters to say. Less of this would be preferable to more of this.
The program has the usual classy CBS News look and sequences are bridged with a catchy four-note trumpet motif that sounds like a cross between "Fanfare for the Common Man" and "My Dog Has Fleas." What the show needs is additional exposure of the real world available to the camera's eye and not as much professional palaver from Northshield's hired chatterboxes.
Eventually the program should be expanded into an all-morning threehour service that a viewer could join at any point. Perhaps with more air time there would be less intensity, fewer crammed words, and the luxury of a breather here and there.