I have seen the future of TV News and it rattles me to the core. I speak not of declining audience shares, shrinking budgets or emerging alternative platforms. Instead, I refer to a disturbing trend rippling through the more desperate newsrooms of our fair land: The Ancillary Talent Dance-Off. For those of you whose local stations still pretend to be credible, I'll be brief. From Sacramento to Cincinnati, otherwise sensible weather and traffic personnel have been setting aside their charts and graphs just long enough to pop and lock. That's right, your weekend weather guy is doing the robot - and judging from that white boy underbite, he's been waiting for this chance all his life. Oh and that totally slammin' backbeat? It's no drum machine; just the corpse of Edward R. Murrow spinning in his grave.
Dude, I'm no prude. I got a silly streak and a foul mouth and I regularly use them both to warn anchors and interns about taking themselves too seriously. I've been doing this for far too long to consider any of it sacred. Nor am I innocent of assinine behavior in the name of news. (After all, I did spend the closing weeks of the 20th Century producing frantic reports on the world-changing certainty of Y2K.) And i'm also aware that weathermen have feigned wackiness since the days of felt forecast boards and smiley face sun stickers. But whereas your father's meteorologist told a few stale jokes before getting to the high pressure systems, today's forecasters and traffic gurus are wrapping up their scientific presentations by busting out the funky chicken. Or is The Forbidden Dance? I can never tell, for no sooner can a WASPy traffic nerd throw a few gang signs than I'm filled with the overwhelming urge to wretch.
Perhaps I doth protest too much. Hey, they're just trying to inject a little levity into the daily grind. It isn't like their mainline talent, right? I mean - a couple of the offending dance squads broadcast only on something called the CW(?). I don't know what that is either, but the more I think about it, the better I feel about being offended. After all, this kind of chicanery is the polar opposite of the kind of television I produce. Whereas I seek to be invisible as I tell others stories, these John Stewart wannabes want nothing more than for you to watch them shake dat rump. Have at it, but tell me this : Where do we go from here? Sure, it's easy to slip away from the news desk and join the traffic hottie in the Macarena, but how do you get back? How do you sit back down and tell viewers about the plane crash, the dead kid or even the traffic snarl without appearing as an unequivocal ass? My guess is you don't.
I mean, what's next? Ya gonna send some smarmy reporter over to the homeless encampement with a case of beer? Hmm? Oh ... my bad.