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A Few Minutes About Andy Rooney...
March 30, 2009  | By David Bianculli
 
ANDY-ROONEY-February.jpg

I adore 60 Minutes. I love that the oldest surviving TV show in prime time is still among the very best. I'm thrilled that it caters to intelligence rather than panders to stupidity. Living up to its name, it's 60 minutes of outstanding television.

Well, 55 minutes, anyway...

"A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney," the closing feature most weeks, has ended the show on an off note. This isn't ageism, or a rejection of tradition. On the contrary: It's a dissatisfaction with what appears to be creative laziness.

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Look, you're not going to find me complaining about a veteran journalist holding onto a high-profile post. A job on 60 Minutes is the closest thing on TV to a tenured position, and television is the better for it. At 80 90, Andy Rooney represents a segment of the population heard from much too seldom, and he's done some really good work over the years. I still remember, and treasure, his reports for the public TV series The Great American Dream Machine -- and that's almost 40 years ago.

But of late, Andy Rooney has started sliding into a caricature of himself. I can't recall the last piece he presented which required him to leave his office. He's done reports on what's in his desk drawers, what's in his incoming mail, and what his desk is made of. He's even done a piece in which - I swear -- he complained about the spelling of the word February. (See picture above.)

This on one of the best, most-watched shows on television, enjoying one of its strongest journalistic seasons in years. No wonder Craig Ferguson, on his own CBS series, makes fun of Andy Rooney more and more frequently.

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In Sunday's installment on 60 Minutes, Rooney read letters sent to him by viewers. One of them nailed it on the head: "Andy, you need to get out more." Please do that, Andy, or consider abdicating your high-profile throne.

A decade ago, when CBS mounted its ill-conceived 60 Minutes II spinoff, it tried other people in the Andy Rooney slot, including comedian Jimmy Tingle. That didn't work at all, but now or later, the network will have to confront the necessity of replacing Andy Rooney.

The heir to that throne can't help but skew younger. Even Larry King would shave five 15 years off the total. But what 60 Minutes and CBS should be looking for is someone who can end the show with energy, vitality and creativity -- without sacrificing Rooney's best quality, a definite and often defiant point of view.

Suggestions?

If you want someone as smart, and wide-ranging, as the rest of 60 Minutes, hire Robert Krulwich, the PBS and NPR science host and commentator whose sense of humor is as contagious as his sense of wonder. He'd be different. And, I suspect, he'd be fantastic.

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If you want someone to connect to the average viewer, and to continue Rooney's tradition of being obsessed with the minutiae of daily life, why not go straight to the top and hire Jerry Seinfeld?

A few minutes a week should fit into his schedule nicely -- and if there's one guy who can entertain by talking about nothing, Seinfeld's the guy.

Or, if you don't want a guy, but a woman, why not go with Bonnie Hunt?

 

BONNIE-HUNT-large.jpgShe's covering a lot of the same territory on her daily talk show already. And if Andy Rooney can spend time on 60 Minutes delivering a rant about the R's in February, why can't Bonnie Hunt deliver a rant about the rats in her kitchen? Yes, she has her own show already. But so does Anderson Cooper, and he gets to be on 60 Minutes anyway.

 

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Finally, there's Craig Ferguson. He does a funny Andy Rooney impression already -- all arms and snarls and eyebrows -- and, on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, already ends each show by taking a few minutes to ask viewers what they learned on the show that night. And even if Ferguson just riffs for a bit at the end of 60 Minutes, as he does at the beginning of his own show, it would be a perfect piece of cross-promotion for a late-night CBS talk show that has more than earned the support.

I'm not trying to push Andy Rooney out of a job -- just to prod him into taking it a little more seriously again. And, at the same time, I'm doing what CBS should be doing: looking down the road to the next move on the chessboard.

Krulwich, Seinfeld, Hunt and Ferguson are some of my nominations. What about yours?

 

15 Comments

 

Phil B said:

David, I am totally with you on this. I've not seen Rooney in many weeks as I simply switch off or over to something else. He has become a buffoon and, yes, a caricature of himself. Perhaps they could lure Dick Cavett to fill that slot. I do think Krulwich or Ferguson would also do well.

Comment posted on March 30, 2009 8:45 AM


Eileen said:

Bonnie Hunt would be fabulous. She's able to put a humorous spin on issues and skewer like crazy. She was an absolute delight on "Life with Bonnie".

Has anyone considered two staples of CBS' own "Sunday Morning"? The venerable Charles Osgood and the always entertaining Bill Geist; either would be perfect. They already know the CBS territory and players. Bill Geist does some of the sweetest/strangest pieces week in/week out. He's one of the reasons I look forward to the show every Sunday.

Just my thoughts...

Comment posted on March 30, 2009 9:46 AM


Kenneth Kahn said:

Just FYI, Andy turned 90 recently, not 80. (Whoa! My bad -- and my bad math! I'll correct immediately. And geez... now I feel bad, picking on a 90-year-old. - David B.)

Comment posted on March 30, 2009 9:50 AM


Kenneth Kahn said:

I didn't think of it before, but I agree with Phil that Dick Cavett would be a great replacement. He already does something similar on his NY Times blog.

Comment posted on March 30, 2009 10:01 AM


Ken R said:

I would love to see Jon Stewart doing the segment every week, if Comedy channel could spare him.

Comment posted on March 30, 2009 10:22 AM


Elise said:

Here, here! Even my 11 year old agrees.... "His eyebrows are scary!"

How 'bout a woman... Yes! Bonnie Hunt would be terrific!!

Comment posted on March 30, 2009 10:38 AM


Michelle said:

The thing about Rooney is that he isn't a comedian so much as the Norman Rockwell of television commentators. I really don't think a comedian should replace him, though they are fully licensed to poke fun at him. Rooney certainly needs to be replaced but his successor should be reminiscent of a bedtime storyteller for adults, not a hip, witty political satirist.

Comment posted on March 30, 2009 10:44 AM


Neil said:

There's something that you all are overlooking. Andy's not only 90, but something's going on with his health. The tipoff is watching his hands as he speaks. He's either grasping his hands tightly, or they're shaking uncontrollably. Obviously I don't know whether it's Parkinsons, or some other condition, or just the ravages of age, but he may not get out as much because he can't (or has been warned by his doctor not to).

This said, I've also noticed a distinct degradation in the quality of those 2 1/2 minute pieces this season. It's as if he's recycling ideas from ten years ago. (In my case, it's not so much overlooking as not conjecturing. But the recycling observation, I think, is entirely accurate regardless. -- David B.)

Comment posted on March 30, 2009 11:46 AM


Steveinfenix said:

Steve Hartman is the obvious heir-apparent. He already works for CBS, has every attribute that you describe and even punctuates Katie Couric's Friday evening installments with enjoyable, quirky segments. I think he may already have subbed for Rooney, too.

Otherwise, I agree that a change is definitely indicated.

Comment posted on March 30, 2009 11:51 AM


Eileen said:

I couldn't remember Steve Hartman's name when I suggested Charles Osgood or Bill Geist. Yes, Steve is perfect. The pieces he does for CBS are great. Does anyone remember when he would put a pin on the map, visit an obscure town, and find some amazing stories and people? He's a natural for this slot.
Andy needs to step aside. And suggesting he needs to get out more is absolutely correct. Over the years he's gone to the "Poland Spring", out in New Jersey to buy a single gallon of gas, etc., etc. Those pieces were great, but that time has come & gone.
Let's get Steve on the road...

Comment posted on March 30, 2009 1:58 PM


djr said:

How about a younger Willie Geist? He does a 5 minute segment for Morning Joe on MSNBC and it is humorous, pointed and fits into a small time slot.

Comment posted on March 31, 2009 10:34 AM


Eric Funderburk said:

I believe Rooney did an off-site piece on the Super Bowl (perhaps?). I remember thinking, "Wow, no wonder he doesn't get out much." Regardless, he does do WAY too many pieces on what he gets in the mail or viewer comments. Very lazy, even for 80...er...90.

Comment posted on March 31, 2009 11:14 AM


Dave S said:

I agree, Rooney's been recycling his "greatest hits" for some time and it's time to add some fresh voices. Robert Krulwich would be a refreshing change as would Nancy Giles, who already works for the network as a writer and commentator on CBS News Sunday Morning and would add some much needed diversity to the 60 Minutes team.

Comment posted on March 31, 2009 11:29 AM


Greg said:

Except for the NPR Science Correspondent, all your suggestions are Actors/Comedians. I think with it being a legitimate news program, it really should be a journalist so I like the NPR Guy suggestion. But even better would be a good sardonic/satirical columnist, like [Jack] Cafferty of CNN. Like a Jon Stewart but dead serious all the time instead. (But you choices would still be enjoyable, though they would be a lowering of 60 Minutes; journalistic integrity - not that Rooney these days isn't already doing that).

Comment posted on April 1, 2009 3:03 PM


Kevin Chouinard said:

Perhaps I'm of the minority, but no one will top Andy Rooney. I have forever been a fan of his and he's been my favorite author since I curiously read passages from "A Few Minutes With Andy Rooney" at the Little Rock AFB base library, and could not stop laughing.

Andy Rooney has not only humor, but wisdom. Being as there are more people reaching 80,90, even 100 yr old plateaus, we need a real senior citizen to speak to us. If nothing else, Andy Rooney (along with fitness guru Jack LaLanne) is teaching something that's extremely important in our lives; that we can still function in body and in mind. My vote is not to replace him.

Comment posted on August 2, 2009 10:28 AM
 
 
 
 
 
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