Clicked on a little before 4 a.m., and it was Gifford and her highly paid “Today” colleague Megyn Kelly, coming to us live from somewhere in Windsor, England, on the most gorgeous Saturday morning ever seen. They’re drinking.
“We’re on High Street,” Kathie Lee barked. (Get it?)
“And they mean it,” Megyn added.
How long has it been since we’ve watched live TV that was this giddy, this besotted? Usually it’s Sarah Huckabee Sanders scowling at us, followed by pundits scowling some more, with TV anchors whose heads shake permanently back and forth in exasperated surrender. Even the awards shows lately have been fraught with careful messaging.
But on Saturday, from network to network, coverage of the royal marriage of Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle was technically flawless, surprisingly thoughtful, happily effervescent and unabashedly over the top. The combined force of it briefly created a safe space for dreamers and optimists, whether a viewer opted for the pure dosage of the BBC feed (on PBS and BBC America), or for something more pedestrian.
The only thing it didn’t cover was Prince Harry’s ancestors spinning in their graves — many of whom were conveniently underfoot.
“I can’t deal,” swooned E! host Giuliana Rancic, as Markle appeared, almost right on time, at the open door of St. George’s Chapel in Givenchy gloriousness, surrounded by precious, royally behaved children.
Rancic, like her peers, had been hosting pre-ceremony anticipation fits since about zero dark thirty — and, as it was at Prince William’s wedding seven years ago, the E! team demonstrated how well it can do it high and low from one second to the next, serving both Anglophiles and supermarket gossipeuses alike.
Like her peers on CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC and the Fox News Channel, Rancic came prepared with facts and knowledge, not for red-carpet duty but for the anchor desk. (Like her peers, she also leaned on a vast army of British commentators, know-it-alls, historians and journalists.)
When celebrities began to file toward the chapel, Rancic became the Diane Sawyer of this stuff, fluent in both American and British celeb-speak, waiting for the big payoff: The arrival of human-rights attorney Amal Clooney, wearing an egg-yolk gold Stella McCartney dress. She was accompanied by her husband, what’s his name (the easiest joke of the day).
Outside of the Olympics, you hardly ever see this many American TV personalities cramming this much research — and I’m including our own elections. After so much talk about protocol and tradition, plus one more round of anxious speculation about all the possible wedding gown designers and tiara choices — “If [Markle] wears the Spencer tiara there are going to be tears, I’m serious,” declared E! co-host Brad Goreski — Rancic and company let out a collective sigh of ecstasy at the beauty of the moment when the wedding actually began.
The best, of course, was yet to come.
England was all: Hi, America, we’re going to show you how to get a group of very young Pinterest-perfect pageboys and flower girls to walk a very long wedding aisle without it turning into a FailArmy video clip.
Then America was like: Hi, England, we’re going to show you how to church. So you can just stop with the fidgeting, Eugenie.
The Most Rev. Michael Curry, the first African American to become the head of the U.S. Episcopal Church, put an end to centuries of Anglican stiffness with a stirring, stylistically wandering sermon on the power of love. He gestured, he laughed, he preached. He quoted the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He paraphrased the Catholic Jesuit theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin — in front of the queen of England! Producers in charge of the cameras inside the chapel had their work cut out for them when it came to cutting to and away from the looks on some of the faces in the 600-person congregation.
Curry was followed by the equally blessed sight (and sound) of the U.K.-based Kingdom Choir, led by Karen Gibson, and their rendition of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me.” It left the church and wafted over the crowd, then further out across the broadcast airwaves and streaming Internet. We shared a moment and wept softly for our inner princesses and princes. Royal weddings are worth it, just for that.
Then what? More gab. Horse-drawn carriages and vintage automobiles and royalty passing by with a wave, in a blip. Then still more gab, exhaling, coming down from the high and babbling like addicts.
On CNN, they tried and failed to have a fight about all the newness this wedding represents. On E! they eddied out into a conversation about just how much in love the newlyweds are. (So, so much.) The clock started to drag, and then came the harsh truth of news cycles: As “Today” started to deflate and pack up, Savannah Guthrie’s smile turned serious and she tossed to Lester Holt, in Texas, at the site of Friday’s deadly school shooting. Back to the hate, the ugliness.
So do not get on anyone’s case for losing some weekend sleep to take in the spectacle of Harry and Meghan. We were merely trying, as old Teilhard suggested, to harness the energy of love.