Did CBS Make Right Picks for ‘Early Show’ Revamp?

New 'Early Show' Co-Anchors Erica Hill and Chris Wragge (Photo: CBS)

New 'Early Show' Co-Anchors Erica Hill and Chris Wragge (Photo: CBS)

CBS shocked TV viewers Tuesday with the announcement that it was firing most of its ‘Early Show‘ line-up. Morning TV without Dave Price and, um, the other ones? Say it ain’t so!

We don’t mean to denigrate those “other ones” – Harry Smith and Maggie Rodriguez. Smith, 59, has served CBS News faithfully and professionally in a variety of roles for 24 years. Rodriguez, 40, has been with CBS News only since 2007 after a long career in local news in cities such as Miami and Los Angeles.

But the point here is that Smith and Rodriguez, while capable and dependable, never quite rose to become morning TV stars. How many of you could really name Rodriguez if asked? What about if you were asked the names of the co-hosts at NBC’s ‘Today Show,’ the top-rated network morning show? You’d instantly know Meredith Vieira and Matt Lauer, right? What about Smith and Rodriguez at CBS? Not as likely. Most people would agree they’re less well-known than the current team on ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’ – George Stephanopoulos and Robin Roberts.

And so, CBS ‘Early Show’ co-anchors Smith and Rodriguez are out, along with weatherman and color provider Dave Price – who is perhaps the one member of this team to rise at least partly to TV stardom. CBS confirmed the news, first broken by the Associated Press, when the network announced the team’s replacements on Tuesday. The new “cast” begins Jan. 3.

As new co-anchors, the network has tapped Chris Wragge, 40, who’s been seen for a while on the Saturday version of ‘The Early Show’ and who’s known to New Yorkers as a local anchor on CBS-owned Ch. 2, and Erica Hill, 44, who left CNN last January. Marysol Castro, 44, who worked for a while on the weekend edition of ABC’s ‘Good Morning America,’ replaces Price as weatherperson.

OK, so these newbies are not exactly household names, are they? You might even say they’re less well-known than Smith and Rodriguez, which begs the question: Why replace these somewhat-knowns with relative unknowns?

That’s hard to explain, except to say that CBS, perennially mired in third place in the morning ratings race, finds itself forced to reboot its morning show from time to time in an attempt to jolt the ratings. The thinking behind these shakeups seems to be: Let’s install a whole new team, enabling us to build a new identity for the show, supported by a huge promotional campaign. You know the drill: on-air promos, billboards everywhere with the new team’s smiling faces, and maybe a catchy new slogan or even a new show title.

The hoped-for result from CBS’s perspective: Our promotion campaign will be so effective, and pique so much interest and curiosity, that enough people will sample the revamped show when it premieres in January that we’ll see the ratings go up, at least initially. Then, if we’ve done our work correctly, a number of those samplers will like us so much that they’ll stick around and become regular viewers, sustaining the ratings increase.

Well, CBS, good luck with all that. Actually, we do wish CBS well with its redo, though we’ll miss Harry, Dave and Maggie (at least a little). The challenge for CBS, though, is the network’s history with these reshuffles. CBS has done this many times before, even bringing in Bryant Gumbel, a bonafide morning TV star from his years at NBC, for a stint in 1999. And yet, even Gumbel couldn’t pull CBS out of third place. And so, they try, try again.

What do you think of CBS’s plan to remake ‘The Early Show’? Do you think this new team will be enough to lift the network out of third place in the morning? Will you miss the current crew?

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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