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.
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?
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.