Tuesday, June 2, 2009
WTF Happened Campbell?: Her Sad and Mystifying Fall
Well, Campbell Brown returned from maternity leave and looks like hell. She has a new show with a new title but sure looks like the old one. What was once a promising and reasonably successful career from both a serious professional perspective and one that we like has now taken a drastic, dramatic and perhaps not unexpected fall given the benefit of hindsight. Campbell appeared to make a pretty good transition from White House correspondent for NBC to host of the NBC Weekend Today shows, albeit a bit awkward in the beginning. She seemed to embrace both the serious and light sides of that job in a way that few had been successful before. In terms of visual presentation, she may not be the all-around stunner in both body and face, but her height, long legs, and reasonably appealing and cute face made up for it, despite the occasional comment that she looked like a witch. She had her rough spots and droughts from an outfit perspective, and she squandered a long substitute run on the weekday Today show over the holidays a few years ago with non stop pants and dreary outfits. But she righted herself and was a semi-serious contender to replace Katie Couric when her contract was expiring. When Meredith Vieira was signed instead, it became clear to outsiders and probably to Campbell herself that she should seek outside opportunities when her own contract was expiring. At the time, I had thought that she would be considered a prime-time free agent for the other two networks. I envisioned ABC grooming her to replace Charlie Gibson on the evening news and adding stability to a post that was in flux after the sudden death of Peter Jennings. While Katie Couric took the anchor chair at CBS and appears to now have it firmly in place, I at the time also saw CBS picking up Campbell to anchor the Early Show and have her on the bench for Katie if Katie were to falter, which was a very likely scenario at that time. But when it came out that CNN had signed Campbell, frankly I was surprised. I either had seriously overestimated Campbell's worth or the networks had seriously underestimated her or maybe they knew something that we didn't. It just didn't seem to add up that CNN would be a fit for her. With the competition and the available spots it didn't seem to be an ideal choice. Maybe the networks just didn't think she had what they were looking for, and if that is true, then maybe I was wrong about how good she was. Whatever the case, she got her own show at CNN, and in a case of all-time bad timing, was pregnant when the signing was announced and when the show started she had to go on maternity leave soon after. When she returned around the beginning of '08, things seemed good. She showed a lot of leg with open table shots. Then as time went along, she started hiding behind the big table desk they use more and more. Later on, unknown to me, she decided that she had to get pregnant again. Campbell is not a young woman anymore, she's in her 40s, so I guess you have to give her some slack since she wants to have a family after getting married to conservative commentator Dan Senor, talk about your odd couple marriages. Oh well, guess it works somehow. Anyway, while you certainly can't fault anyone for wanting to have a family, you have to be realistic and reasonable and understand that you really can't have it all. Campbell is trying to run a middle of the road political show while up against ultra conservative Bill O'Reilly and ultra liberal Keith Olbermann. She has several disadvantages. One, they're both men and don't have to take care of two little kids and breastfeed one and all that. Second, she's boring, and unfortunately appears now to be miscast in this role as became evident over the past presidential election period, and third, CNN is getting beaten in the ratings by both Fox and MSNBC. So the problem is now that Campbell has become pretty much irrelevant as a subject that we would be interested in, which is a shame considering that CNN has a quite a few who are attractive like Kiran, Christine Romans, Poppy Harlow, Gerri Willis, Ines Ferre and more. The other problem is that Campbell is trying to buck a bad trend that has afflicted every network news person who went to CNN. They all failed and left the network in relative disgrace. Unfortunately I just don't see Campbell bucking that trend given the position that she is in, the competition that she is up against, and the lack of any real momentum due to her absences. And that is a real shame given that two years ago, she had all the potential in the world.