This morning, I happened to be awake at 6 a.m. -- did I mention I love my wife? -- and while Mrs. Other McCain was in the shower getting ready for work, I relaxed contentedly by toggling back and forth between "Fox & Friends" and MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
Fox fans can crucify me for saying this, but "Morning Joe" is the better program, and the superiority of the MSNBC show was blindingly evident today. While "Fox & Friends" had on Geraldo Rivera to talk about Rhianna (allegedly) getting beat up by her boyfriend, Joe Scarborough, Mike Barnicle, Pat Buchanan and Mika Brzrzbuyavowelski were talking about real news -- especially the economic meltdown and the inability of Congress or the Obama administration to do anything to stop it.
Excuse me for thinking that gotterdammerung on Wall Street is more important than a domestic-violence case involving two second-rate pop stars that no one over 30 ever heard of until Chris Brown (allegedly) beat Rhianna to a bloody pulp.
OK, there may be some kind of "counterprogramming" rationale behind Fox producers going with celebrity tabloid news at 6 a.m., but there is a word for that rationale: Wrong. Most of those who get up at 6 a.m. and switch to the early news are essentially serious people. They're in a hurry, getting ready to go to work, and they want to hear about news that makes a difference in their lives, which doesn't include the obnoxious Geraldo sharing gossip about two pop singers.
Furthermore -- and Steve Doocy's my Facebook friend, so I want to be careful how I say this -- the "Fox & Friends" crew seems too lightweight. The "Morning Joe" crew is anchored by a former congressman and features a veteran political adviser in Buchanan. Barnicle doesn't impress me much, but Brzrzbuyavowelski, though hopelessly liberal, is at least a smart, serious liberal.
To employ an overused word, the implicit gravitas of the MSNBC crew gives them more leeway to joke around amiably like a bunch of buddies just talkin' news, whereas Gretchen Carlson and Brian Kilmeade lack that sort of heft (Doocy wasn't on the show this morning). My impression is that Kilmeade is a hometown favorite in the New York market, so Fox isn't going to pull him from the show, and I wouldn't want them to pull my buddy Doocy, which makes Carlson the prime candidate for replacement, if the executives want to tinker with the formula.
Bay Buchanan? Kate Obenshain? I don't know. They need somebody with a credible government/politics background. They need to change something. The whole mood of the Fox show is wrong for the current economic and political climate.
Any serious news junkie toggling back and forth between Fox and MSNBC in the mornings -- and this isn't the first time I've done this in recent weeks -- can't help but notice the difference. "Fox & Friends" feels too fake perky-cheery like "Good Morning, Orlando" or something, whereas "Morning Joe" exudes a vibe that is simultaneously confident, smart, and relaxed.
Roger Ailes needs to be paying attention, because whatever the total Nielsen numbers, he's losing "the eyes of the influentials," to borrow a phrase from Jon Henke.
UPDATE: I'm getting some push-back in the comments, which is OK, but Hyscience agrees with me. To those who only watch Fox, you should try toggling between "F&F" and "MJ" some mornings. Maybe it's me, but the Joe show is less show-biz, more laidback, and I like that -- even if Barnicle and Brzrzbuyavowelski aren't to my taste.