“He sort of stinks on TV. He hasn’t turned out to be the superstar they were hoping for.”
— An anonymous inside source to the New York Daily News on the supposed impending cancellation of Ronan Farrow Daily
There are two things that need to be kept in mind when reading this, the first being that the quote itself isn’t the least bit surprising as there’s almost no news at all in it. Of course Farrow is bad on TV — he had no television experience when Phil Griffin hired him and all he had in the lead-up to the show’s debut was the training the network had put him through. Ronan Farrow’s an extraordinarily bright guy and he’s got a wry sense of humor that translates well in person and on social media, but there was never a guarantee it was going to be able to carry an entire show day after day. On TV Farrow comes off as an almost personality-free dud and in many ways that’s not at all his fault — it’s the fault of Griffin, who saw stars in his eyes as soon as he came face to face with a Hollywood and DC prodigy and let that fanboy infatuation get the best of him. The second thing to remember here is that unless something is a huge hit right out of the gate, there’s almost always talk of cancellation and it’s easy to find cynical sources within a news organization willing to spill the insider conventional wisdom that a show is on its last legs, as long as he or she can do so anonymously.
Ronan Farrow’s show really isn’t very good. That’s not a lie. All you have to do is watch a little of it to get that. Farrow unwittingly commits one of the cardinal sins of television in the year 2014: he’s boring. While another Griffin starfuck, Al Sharpton, still hosts what’s undeniably the worst thing on MSNBC, at least he brings some dynamism to the table (zero insight and an inability to approach any topic without bludgeoning it to death, but plenty of dynamism). Farrow, though, is trying to do Hayes/Maddow-lite in midday, occasionally using nothing more than internet lingo to prove his Millennial street-cred. It’s not that it’s bad television — it’s just kind of not-there, which these days is even worse, since at least bad TV can draw an audience by turning you into a meme. Right now Farrow’s not drawing much of an audience at all, with the numbers bearing it out.
This was always the risk of giving someone with no broadcast experience and a profile that’s high only within coastal elite circles his own show. This little experiment was the height of arrogance on Griffin’s part and, while we’ve become used to the peacock cozying up to famous people — certainly the children of famous people — there was an especially pronounced “screw you” in this hire to all those people who worked their way up through the ranks of TV journalism and hoped to one day be given a shot at a show. It said that now more than ever it’s better to be born into famous family than it is to pay your dues and learn your craft if you’re looking to make it in cable news (or even be given that all-important “in”). Giving Farrow a show then training him to host almost certainly offended some of the rank-and-file within MSNBC, certainly those whose job would be to help prop him up from behind the scenes. Farrow seems like a decent-enough guy and even one who’s humble and appreciative about his new gig, but there was simply no way to make his instant elevation to daily anchor go down easy with people who’d spent their lives trying to get what he was awarded simply because of his status.
By the way, it’s worth mentioning that MSNBC has already responded to the rumors that Ronan Farrow’s show will soon be ending. The network says it’s behind him completely, that the show is growing, and that the talk of cancellation just isn’t true. Here’s where I remind you of one of the great truisms of modern TV news: management always has your back, right up until the second it puts its hand against your back and pushes you out the door.
Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.