Charlie Rose Should Go Back to Bed

Based on yesterday's debut, the 70-year-old newsman is not suited for "CBS This Morning"

Judging by yesterday’s debut of “CBS This Morning,” Charlie Rose is not ready for his close-up, Mr. DeMille.

Then again, why would anyone be surprised that the 70-year-old Rose, who does a late-night interview show for PBS, looks a tad bleary-eyed at 7 a.m.? Or that his understated, cerebral style is not exactly the stuff of get-up-and-go morning TV?

Given that CBS has tried everything else in the morning, some argue that Rose is worth a shot. With an unbroken record of failure dating back to the launch of its first morning broadcast in 1954, CBS has more to gain than lose from a counter-intuitive choice.

Equally counter-intuitive is the new “Morning Show” format. Rose fronts the hard news-driven 7 a.m. hour, with the affable Gayle King on the lighter stuff from 8 to 9. Erica Hill, lone holdover from CBS’s “Early Show,” crosses over both hours.

No silly weatherman. No cheering crowds outside a street-level studio. No phony chit-chat among anchors. In fact, Rose and King, 56, rarely appeared together on the set, which featured a large glass table instead of traditional talk-show couch.

As promised, the first hour was heavy on news, with plenty of live correspondent debriefings by Rose.  However, his live interview with Newt Gingrich painfully illustrated what everyone except CBS, apparently, already knew–short, fast-paced segments do not play to Rose’s strengths.

With only a few minutes in which to maneuver, Rose was unable to pry away Gingrich from his well-rehearsed talking points. (Yawn.) Worse, Gingrich was embarrassingly fawning, telling the host his was “a Charlie Rose-style campaign, ideas-driven.”

Newt Gingrich and Charlie Rose. Now that’s a ticket Republicans could get behind.

Rose’s most embarrassing moment, by far, had taken place earlier, when he  teased an upcoming segment on Beyonce’s and Jay-Z’s new baby. With a straight face, he said: “It’s a huge Twitter topic that Twitter friends have been Tweeting.”

In reality, Rose was probably thinking: #WTF?

As the producers no doubt instantly realized, Rose’s comfort zone did not  extend to all pop-culture stories. Later, when he joined King and Hill in chatting up Julianna Margulies, star of CBS’s hit “The Good Wife,” it was unclear whether Rose had ever actually watched a full episode.

For all CBS’s bluster about breaking the mold, the 8 a.m. hour floated with  fluff—not unlike NBC’s “Today,” ABC’s “Good Morning America” or “Fox & Friends.” At the end, CBS even trotted out actor Dick Van Dyke, 86, who in 1955— 1955!—hosted its morning show.

Barring a miracle, “This Morning” will not reinvent morning TV. But at least CBS is trying, and that, in itself, is good news. Along with better makeup for Charlie’s peepers.