Decision by WJZ shows bad timing

Competition: Don't try to watch Bryant and Jane from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. on Channel 13. You'll see Don and Marty instead.

November 14, 1999|By Mike Adams

I'LL ADMIT IT, I fell victim to the hype. On the day "The Early Show," made its debut I got up earlier than usual and walked the dog. Then I rushed home and planted myself in front of the TV.

When the clock struck 7, I expected to see Bryant Gumbel go head-to-head against "Good Morning America" and his former colleagues, Matt Lauer and Katie Couric on the "Today" show. At first, I wasn't too concerned when Don Scott and Marty Bass hung around past 7; I thought they'd eventually fade away. They didn't. And I began to get angry.

Don and Marty's show is too silly for me. I just don't find it entertaining to watch Joe Six-Pack being interviewed over breakfast in Mom's Restaurant in Dundalk, Hampden, or Glen Burnie. That seems to be a staple of the show, along with live shots from the station's helicopter. Recently, the helicopter flew to Delaware to give live coverage of a cannon-like gadget that fires pumpkins hundreds of feet. Puh-leese!

I loved "Today" during the 15 years that Gumbel was there. It was news oriented, and it had an edge. Gumbel is a great interviewer.

Gumbel's honors include an Edward R. Murrow Award for Outstanding Foreign Affairs reporting from the Overseas Press Club, an Edward Weintal Prize for diplomatic reporting and a George Foster Peabody Award. A show he hosts for HBO, "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel," is an Emmy-winner.

Gumbel's detractors say he is an arrogant, opinionated, in-your-face kind of guy. It's funny, some folks say the same thing about Seymour Hersh, but they also add the words "great journalist." I guess there's truth in the saying: "One man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist."

Gumbel is also criticized for having a big ego. So what? It's OK to have a Rolls Royce ego if you have a Rolls Royce brain. It's bad when you have a Rolls Royce ego and a bicycle brain. Gumbel is cruising in a Rolls and some of his critics are peddling.

The debut of "The Early Show" was built up as the first skirmish in a TV war. And I was missing it. Instead, Don and Marty sat in my kitchen, their images coming from a 13-inch TV. Scott gazed at me with a vapid expression on his face while a steady stream of gibberish flowed from Bass' mouth.

Finally, I gave up on WJZ (Channel 13) and tried to get Gumbel on WUSA (Channel 9) in Washington. The TV in my kitchen couldn't pull in WUSA, and the living room TV is hooked to Comcast cable, which doesn't broadcast the D.C. stations. Foiled again.

By 7:30 a.m., I was really steaming so I gave the TV a whack. Sometimes mechanical devices respond to brutality but not this one. It didn't even flicker and it refused to pick up WUSA. Calm down, I said to myself.

I flicked to "Good Morning America", but I started to nod under the spell of that somnambulant duo, Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer. In an act of desperation, I flicked to "Today," which had been my standby for years. But I really wanted to see Gumbel. Disgusted, I turned off the TV, popped a tape in my music box and listened to Dr. John singing his signature tune:

You know, I been been in the right place, but at the wrong time;

I been in the right set, but in the wrong line;

I been on the right trip, but I did it in the wrong car;

My head is in a bad place, I wonder what it there for. ...

Dr. John is a genius. Don and Marty were in the right place, but at the wrong time. Three a.m. would be perfect for them. I decided to tell WJZ.

I grabbed the telephone, called information, and got the station's phone number. I dialed it and got one of those infernal message systems. I pushed the button for Eyewitness News. A woman answered and I said: "Look, where's Bryant Gumbel, why did CBS spend millions to create a show that we can't see in Baltimore. ..."

"Hold on sir, Eyewitness News didn't do this, you need to talk to somebody else," then she transferred me to Mike somebody's voice-mail. Mike's recording sounded nice. He said you could leave a message, and if it was urgent you could call him on his cell phone. I left a message and tried to call him, but I got a recording saying his cell phone was not in service.

I flicked the TV on again and there they were, Don and Marty. They would not go away. Bass was pointing to an electronic box with a phone number on it. He was urging people to call the box. Oh no, I thought. At any moment some fool's voice would come from the gadget and someone would profess love for the show. Egads! I could not wait for that to happen, so I flicked it off and left it off.

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