Dan and Connie together, sort of

Kevin Cowherd

June 04, 1993|By Kevin Cowherd

Well, let's see: the Clinton presidency is going down the tubes, the economy is still in need of a defibrillator, the situation in Bosnia is worsening and crime is so bad in the cities you can't buy a loaf of bread without strapping on body armor and a Glock 9mm.

So naturally the big question on everyone's mind these days is: "How're old Dan Rather and Connie Chung getting along on the "CBS Evening News?"

The answer, after a few broadcasts, anyway, is: Fine, swell, terrific. Couldn't be better. At least that's the party line parroted by the flacks at CBS.

And, in truth, when you look at the two anchor superstars, patting hands and making smiley faces at one another, the fear that Rather could snap and back-hand Chung and send her flying into the Teleprompter seems more and more misplaced -- at least for now.

For a sign-off on their very first newscast together, the two even did a parody of "The Huntley-Brinkley Report" ("Good night, Chet. Good night, David.") that was . . . well, precious is the only word that comes to mind.

As for whether the new team's "chemistry" will make a difference in the ratings, well, only time will tell.

Rather, of course, provides his own unique chemistry, which can be likened to that of a man who insists on smoking near a propane tank.

Yeah, no question about it, Dan's still as tightly wound and bizarre as ever. He still has the most terrifying grin on TV, which he keeps flashing at oddly inappropriate times.

(In an interview about the declining Clinton presidency with Newsweek columnist Joe Klein the other night, a quick camera cut showed Rather with this weird, John Hinckley-like grin.)

Me, I still tune in every night wondering if this is the newscast where his head starts spinning 360 degrees and he levitates toward the ceiling.

Look, I thought the old boy lost it completely a few years ago after that notorious what's-the-frequency-Kenneth? business. Remember that stuff?

That was when Rather claimed to be accosted on the street by a total stranger who pummeled him and repeatedly demanded: "What's the frequency, Kenneth?"

O-h-h-kay. Rather insisted the whole episode went down exactly as he described it.

But some CBS officials felt Dan was working a lit-tle too hard, if you catch my drift.

Another possible explanation, of course, was that Dan had recently had an anvil dropped on his head from 18 stories up, which network honchos couldn't completely discount, either.

The anvil-on-the-head theory seemed to gain more adherents when Rather mysteriously took to signing off his newscasts with the word: "Courage."

I kept waiting for him to shoot a fist in the air, too, but thankfully that never happened.

Needless to say, no one could figure out what the hell this "courage" business meant.

Pressed for an explanation, Rather was so vague and rambling that network executives now feared he was picking up radio transmissions in the fillings of his teeth.

In any event, the pairing of the relaxed Chung with the ultra-intense Rather should be interesting, providing viewers with the sensation that they've just downed a glass of Chablis followed by six cups of strong Turkish coffee.

Rather and Chung aren't the first male-female anchor superstars to do a network newscast, of course.

That distinction belonged to ABC's oddball pairing of part-time store mannequin Harry Reasoner with the incredibly annoying Barbara Walters back in 1976.

That pairing worked real well -- for about three minutes anyway -- until a tiny flaw was discovered in their working relationship.

The flaw was that they couldn't stand each other.

Walters reportedly didn't like Reasoner's arrogance and his low-key demeanor, which could be likened to a corpse on an autopsy table.

And Reasoner didn't like what he perceived to be Walters' phoniness, the way she'd fix those big, basset hound eyes on everyone in a show of incredible earnestness.

Luckily for ABC, this was before Barbara went completely around the bend and apparently started experimenting with peyote buttons.

Because pretty soon she was interviewing big stars like Sylvester Stallone and Jane Fonda and asking them questions like: "If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?"

Connie Chung will never get that weird.

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