A Living Legend Leaves WNBC: and They Send Off Len Berman with a Generic Sheet Cake. Seriously.

What Do You Give a Man Like Len Berman?  A Lousy Supermarket Cake, Perhaps?

What Do You Give a Man Like Len Berman? A Lousy Supermarket Cake, Perhaps?

The bosses at NBC didn’t really care, and they didn’t really care if it showed.  Len Berman’s sendoff proved that.

WNBC/NY’s longtime sports anchor Len Berman signed off tonight, ending a run in New York that will, given the nature of the local news business, never be matched.  Can’t be. Nobody will ever get the chance to be Len Berman again.  The big man’s gone, but he got to take that honor with him as he walked off the set at Channel 4.

Simply put, we won’t be growing them that big anymore.

Why?  The massive local news farm that had hillsides and fields as far as the eye could see–growing huge stalks of cash that rose to the big, blue sky–well, a dust storm rolled in and killed the damn thing.  Now the farm’s a lot smaller, run a lot cheaper, and the product, well it doesn’t quite taste the same.

Shelly Palmer, the host of MediaBytes, had a dead-on but dead depressing take on the end of Berman’s run at WNBC.  In a sense, he compared it to the closing night of Vaudeville’s biggest show–after the Cineplex was up and running across the street:  “He’s a very big budget item that could easily be cut to make room for a bunch of high quality, low cost, good looking young people who can read, write and speak on camera.”  And cut they did.  

Not Len's Cake.  (This One's Nicer)

Not Len's Cake. (This One's Nicer)

On the set tonight, Len shared some memories with Chuck Scarborough and Sue Simmons, the monster anchor duo still reigning at Channel 4.  And you just had to wonder.  How long until their big salaries are slashed as well?  The natural, and dated, argument is this:  but they are Chuck and Sue.  They are the franchise that everything’s built around.  (I made that very same argument myself just a few weeks ago)  And yet, the factory farmers that run NBC have crunched the numbers and they don’t really care about the prizewinning corn that’s been growing on this land for 35 years.  To them, it all boils down to one question:  does it sell?  It is worth the hassle to keep growing this damn corn?  Or should we just pull it up by the roots and plant something cheaper?
Titans:  Warner Wolf and Len Berman

Titans: Warner Wolf and Len Berman

NBC’s done with its prizewinning corn.  Those days are over.  And they don’t really care who knows it.  Len Berman?  He got a sheetcake.  Seriously.  A New York legend sent off the lousy new set with a fresh-from-the-supermarket sheet cake that didn’t even have his damn name on it. “Best Wishes,” it said in off-center icing, as if an intern had been dispatched to the nearest Gristede’s at the last minute to grab whatever cake was on the shelf. 

Best Wishes indeed.



Filed under layoffs

7 responses to “A Living Legend Leaves WNBC: and They Send Off Len Berman with a Generic Sheet Cake. Seriously.

  1. Michael E.

    I agree that the sendoff was rather underwhelming, but at least the folks on set seemed genuine in their admiration and respect for Len. The cake was an absolute joke; so very sad 😦

    It did sound like at least his co-workers on set (and maybe off, who knows?) took him out to dinner or something between the 6PM and 11PM broadcasts.

    Once again, WNBC disappoints me.

  2. Homer Fink

    That was no sheet cake, that was his separation agreement.

  3. BeenThere DoneThat

    Len’s a giant. Burns, O’Brien and the rest of the crew running WNBC are dwarves.

  4. Chris

    You have an awful lot of jettisoned and dispatched TV news talent sitting off to the sides wondering what to do next. Many of them will write books, which ought to make for fascinating reading. Obviously, warts-and-all stories will probably point to the utter fallacy of the thesis that high-priced talent = ‘eyeballs.’ A peripheral case for that might have been made at one point, but there’s no way for a high-priced anchor to compensate for plummeting advertising revenues. There’s no way for them to compensate for cable, for the Internet, or the slowly-growing distrust for most media in general (see: GE/NBC for a case study).

  5. Mike

    I watched both Berman and Scarborough in Boston prior to their departure to NY. Both pros. It’s where the business is today…in the toilet. Sad to see it end but happy I was able to be there 4 the “golden years” in local tv news. It’s over….say goodnight….they’ve already turned the lights out.

  6. frances

    Why is this so upsetting? I like Len Berman a lot – always have. But he’s made millions of dollars reading the sports. And now, when he’s pretty close to retirement age, his company sees that they could do without his salary, which is a really, really good salary. Where’s the tragedy? Len Berman is beloved by many and he got really rich. The business is changing. The ‘golden years’ are a myth. Those are the years when there was NO COMPETITION. You don’t need to pay someone 600-grand to read the sports any more. Hell, in a very short time, you won’t really even need a local TV news sportscast. Why is this sad? When all of you retire, do you think thousand of people will send gifts and notes and emails about how much they love you? No one owes Len Berman anything.

  7. DrJeff

    A sheet cake!? News4NewYork shows its true colors. All that was missing was the trap door….Until next time, if there is a next time.

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