Tuesday, October 29, 2002
New York CBS debuted its new team of four anchors ï¿½ and, briefly, a fifth ï¿½ on "The Early Show" Monday in its latest effort to compete with more dominant morning rivals.
Harry Smith, Hannah Storm, Julie Chen and Rene Syler presided over a typical morning mix of news and makeovers.
They were joined at one point by former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in the show's most awkward segment. An old hand at television, Giuliani read cue cards introducing upcoming segments and promoted his recently published book.
The four-person team, replacing Bryant Gumbel and Jane Clayson, is an attempt to add a new wrinkle to the morning formula.
Smith is a veteran, with nine years as host of an earlier CBS morning show incarnation. Chen is a holdover from the Gumbel days, Storm comes from NBC Sports and Syler is imported from local news in Texas.
"It feels so good to get the ship off the dock," Smith said at one point.
"And we're floating," Syler replied.
Otherwise, they didn't dwell much on their newness. At the show's end, they said each host will take turns profiling a colleague ï¿½ a nod to Smith's role as host of A&E;'s "Biography" ï¿½ in upcoming shows.
CBS said the four hosts offer flexibility, and each took turns reading the news and conducting interviews. Smith was first on the air and did the first interview, with Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge.
Perhaps in an effort to distance itself from comparisons to the daytime talk show "The View," CBS focused on hard news for much of the first hour. The second hour had a makeover segment, an interview with "Everybody Loves Raymond" actors Peter Boyle and Doris Roberts, and advice on how to travel with children.
The four hosts struggled for their roles in the Giuliani segment, mixing talk about his "wonderful book" and "new hairdo" with a meaty question from Storm about the sniper case that referenced Giuliani's background as a prosecutor.
Then, the interview went offtrack when Chen asked, "Needless to say, you're hot right now. Why do you think you're in such demand?"
The quartet seemed smoother in a segment called "The Early Line," where they are to chat about a new topic each day. They chose to talk about anxiety and the discussion, although slightly dated, featured a compelling disagreement between Storm and Syler, both mothers, on whether they would have sent their children to school with a sniper on the loose.
A comedian, Steven Bridges, appeared in the second hour with a dead-on impersonation of President Bush.
The most obvious evidence of first-day jitters came in the form of heavily-caffeinated chattiness among the hosts.
CBS has been the perennial also-ran in the television morning wars, behind NBC's "Today" show and ABC's "Good Morning America." CBS has brought on a former "Today" producer, Michael Bass, to preside over the new version of "The Early Show" as executive producer.