Still Pondering Ronan Farrow…

Variety’s Andrew Wallenstein writes about how Ronan Farrow’s transition from Twitter to TV hasn’t quite worked as planned…by MSNBC anyways.

Sure, before the man so much as opened his mouth, his face seemed to bear some blame. His eerie resemblance to his alleged is-he-or-isn’t-he father Frank Sinatra is a distraction. Or maybe Farrow is just too damned handsome; those limpid pools he calls eyeballs are so mesmerizing it’s easy to lose track of what he’s saying.

But being too telegenic isn’t really the problem here. In his opening weeks on the air, Farrow has seemed tentative and ill at ease, prone to stumbling on his words. More to the point, he just doesn’t resemble the guy who is so dazzling on social media.

But concluding that the kind of personality that succeeds on Twitter is just a totally different animal than the type conducive to good TV would be wrong. Because it’s actually MSNBC that needs to fall on its sword for failing Farrow; the network put him in a format that doesn’t capture the essence of his Twitter persona.

Cable news basically has two different types of personality-driven shows. The first is where the anchor takes a backseat to the commentator he or she is interviewing. The job is to tee up the topic at hand and ask intelligent questions, but to otherwise get out of the way and let the news be the star. That’s the format MSNBC gave Farrow, and it’s the wrong one.

What the network should have done was give him the kind of forum that makes people like Keith Olbermann or Bill O’Reilly famous, in which the questioner and commentator are essentially the same person; those they interview are really just furniture. It’s here where Farrow could have employed the wit and opinion he puts to such good use on Twitter, but is totally muffled in his current vehicle.

9 Responses to “Still Pondering Ronan Farrow…”

  1. Wallenstein has a much more intelligent take on Farrows show than the Simon review of a few days ago. I tend to agree that MSNBC screwed up the format of the show they gave to Farrow.

    Instead of the promised focus on long form journalism while taking advantage of RF’s foreign affairs expertise and contacts or using handheld cameras and in the field interviews we have a studio based show filled with in house pundit interviews, celebrity puff pieces and dayside programing gimmicks where the main talk is all about whether the host should be wearing a blazer or rolling up his shirt sleeves.

    By bailing on the advertised format MSNBC has failed Mr. Farrow and set him up for failure. There’s still time to redo the show and get back to the type of format that was promised but that window is rapidly closing.

  2. They should have started him with a weekend show. And they definitely should not have hyped him up so much!

  3. You only get one chance to make a first impression.

  4. The idea that Farrow could flip on a personality with the force of an O’Reily or Olbermann is an insult to both men. Such men are born as human tornados. The isolation contemplation while creating a clever Tweet can perhaps makes one a court favorite, not a sure bet as an exposed throne sitter.

  5. “They should have started him with a weekend show. And they definitely should not have hyped him up so much!”

    ^^If he was doing the show they hyped I agree the weekend would be a better time slot; perhaps replacing the increasingly shrill MHP. They could work out the bugs and hone his hosting skills until he was ready for PT. But they are doing; with a few exceptions, a standard dayside program so dayside is where it belongs.

    The problem with the show is not that Farrow is a bad host; he isn’t. If you listen to the show without video you can appreciate his hosting skills without being distracted by his appearance. The only flaw I find is that his speech is a bit rushed at times.

    As for the youthful and striking appearance; that will become less distracting with time as we get used to his looks and demeanor. Many new hosts go through a initial period of distracting viewers with either their appearance or speaking style. I still can’t watch Schultz, MHP or Sharpton because of these perceived flaws. Some will always have that problem with Farrow for that reason.

  6. Once upon an afternoon dreary, while I pondered weak and weary, Over many a quaint and curious blog of not yet forgotten tweets.
    While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a yapping,
    As of some one gently rapping, rapping at the demo door.
    Tis some youth,” I muttered, “yapping at the demo door —
    Only this, and nothing more.”

  7. savefarris Says:

    It seems we have to learn this lesson almost every single year. In the past 15 years, the only things that have lived up to the hype are…

    * Doritos Locos Tacos at Taco Bell
    * Heath Ledger’s performance in The Dark Knight
    * The Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremonies
    * That one scene from Game of Thrones (you know the one I’m talking about…)
    * LeBron James (and even THAT took a decade and him winning a title before everyone would admit it)

    Everything else, EVERYTHING, has been over-hyped. Farrow’s debut included.

  8. Good stuff, Farris!

  9. I first saw Farrow that week he was on Bill Maher’s show. I thought he bombed. It seemed like he was so terrified of offending anyone that all he did was spew out the most basic lines that were coached into his skull. But it’s Maher, there’s a live audience, and Farrow’s trying to be as impartial as possible. Surely he’s just playing it safe. They’re putting him on Mitchell’s old slot and raising expectations because they are that convinced he’s ready to hit the ground running. Once he’s in his studio he’ll relax and turn on the charm, right?

    Wrong.

    He might be better if he was having conversations with interesting guests. As others have said, he might be the type that thrives in an opinion format with him being an active participant in discussions (though he didn’t shine through with Maher).

    The show’s format is to basically introduce the same tired old guests and turn off Farrow’s brain till they’re done filling airtime. That leaves him with the news reading portions and another problem. His lack of experience behind the prompter really shows! He doesn’t seem comfortable reading all the lines smoothly and at a proper pace. Being so handsome does nothing to help in that regard. He looks and sounds like a freshman doing his first comm class project.

    MSNBC should have let him guest-host and/or do weekends first. The channel keeps throwing people in the deep side of the pool before they’re ready to swim *cough* Hayes *cough*; So, predictably, they sink.

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