“Right now, though, this feels dangerously like a vanity project: Baby’s First Talk Show.”
— Entertainment Weekly’s Darren Franich, reviewing the debut of Ronan Farrow’s new dayside show on MSNBC
If you missed the premiere of Ronan Farrow Daily yesterday, or watched any part of it today, chances are you avoided succumbing to an inadvertent afternoon nap. The show is, to put it bluntly, dull — yet another step in the ongoing Maddowization of MSNBC, which admittedly is something that should, by all accounts, be a good thing.
Farrow fits perfectly into the MS prime-time ethos of coastal intellectualism; in fact, he’s probably one of the smartest people in the building, his big brain and shockingly long list of credentials dwarfing even that of Rhodes Scholar Maddow. But while he’s affable on-air and admits that he’ll need a bit of a learning curve when it comes to television, his show feels like nothing more than another cookie-cutter entry into the growing lineup of elitist clichés that’s come to dominate MSNBC’s POV.
Farrow was supposed to appeal to youth culture, given that he’s only 26; he’s certainly got the looks that will keep some viewers fixated on him. Still, he needs to grow into his new position quickly otherwise he’s going to be written off as exactly what he feels like right now: a guy you watch because you think Chris Hayes is just a bit too edgy. Farrow’s show looks and feels, for lack of a better term, old. Old and stodgy, like a millennial-oriented show created by somebody who isn’t actually a millennial. Some of the more, ahem, inventive segments on it include “Heroes and Zeroes,” which yesterday named Lena Dunham a hero, because, well, of course, and “The Daily Panel,” which featured the seldom-seen-on-MSNBC likes of Michael Steele and MS host Alex Wagner. Yeah, not exactly appointment viewing.
When it was first announced that MSNBC was going to be creating a vehicle for Farrow, I wrote that it was simply a case of Phil Griffin seeing stars in his eyes at the prospect of a young member of Hollywood and D.C. royalty being on his air. There was always a risk involved in giving a TV neophyte an hour a day in the name of his big name, no matter how smart he happened to be, and the above quote makes it clear just what that risk is. Farrow’s being pitched so hard as the “Spokesperson for Youth” that it’s actually written in boldface yellow on the monitor behind him during his intros, but again the show itself doesn’t feel youthful at all. Certainly, Farrow’s first steps were bound to be a little shaky, but he’s really not the problem with the show.
Hopefully, once he gets the hang of this TV thing he’ll be able to assert himself a little more and create a bolder vision for Ronan Farrow Daily. (Jesus, even the name is boring.) If it turns out, though, that this is all there is to Farrow and his show, it’ll be a failed experiment, big brain or not.