The other day, I was relaxing at home, watching some educational television, when I experienced a very hard truth: I will never be a television news anchor, correspondent, on-camera expert, or, worst of all, weatherreporterperson.
The educational program I was watching was Celebrity Plastic Surgery Revealed on VH-1, one of my many sources for edifying and uplifting programming. E!, Bravo, Lifetime, and Comedy Central often have such enlightening fare. During the course of this particular program, however, a particular segment of celebrity culture was referenced to which I never give much thought: celebrity network news anchors. As I thought about it more and more, it became clear:
I can never be a celebrity network news anchor. I am seriously lacking in the one thing they all have in common: perk. I am not now, nor have I ever been, perky. In fact, my efforts to appear perky at work are routinely mocked.
"That's hilarious!" Coach Longhorn will laugh as I smile and give a thumbs-up. My sincere effort to appear as though I'm perky and carefree comes off as hideous parody. But it's getting laughs, so I'm rolling with it.
Each of the major female celebrity network anchors has her own special brand of perk:
Katie Couric: The Classic Perk
Those of us old enough to remember the days when Jane Pauley defined morning television will also remember when Katie, through sheer perky force of will, rescued the Today Show from obscurity and disgrace. Now, she peddles her perk on the CBS Evening News, where the force of her perk is so powerful it causes network executives to ignore basement-level ratings and pay her a huge salary. Perk on, Katie. Perk on.
Diane Sawyer: The Sultry Perk
I've been a sucker for Diane Sawyer since she became the female co-anchor of Good Morning America, as the "sexy neighbor" to Charlie Gibson's "tipsy uncle." However, Diane proved that subtlety can be as effective, in the world of perk, as the obvious. (Or, to use a totally unrelated analogy, Diane showed that "botox" injected "regularly" into her "face" could be as effective as an "eye job" which Katie Couric absolutely did not have. Probably.) Though the gig was supposed to be temporary, Diane still rules the GMA roost and gives totally nonsensical interviews that we all ignore, because we're hoping she'll wink at us.
I have absolutely no snark towards the wonderful Robin Roberts. I think she's awesome. I loved her before she battled breast cancer, but the courageous way she fought the disease and let America see her struggles was sincere and not exploitative at all. Furthermore, I love that she's never played the "sassy black woman" card. I will, though: You go, girl! Sorry. I shan't do that again.
Meredith Viera: The Unpredictable Perk
Here's what I love about Meredith Viera: you never know which you're going to get: a thoughtful, intelligent journalist, or a giant heaping bowl of crazy. This is a woman who can intelligently discuss political issues one breath before confiding all of the details of her husband's digestive habits. Wow.
Today Show Fourth Hour: The Train-Wreck Perk/The Bat-Poo Crazy Perk
What can I say about this magical combination? When I heard The Today Show would be extending into a fourth hour, I thought, "Why?" and "Really?" But then, I heard the delightfully insane Kathy Lee Gifford would be co-anchoring, and I understood: NBC understands that every day must contain at least one hour's worth of stumbling, awkward hostility, and though we may be uncomfortable, we can't look away. Hoda Kotb, Kathie Lee's on-camera victim, stands in for all of us as she gamely tries to follow Kathie Lee's strange stream-of-consciousness style. I just know that one day, Hoda's going to snap and strangle Kathie Lee with her own knee-high, and I just hope the cameras are rolling when that happens.
Not that I'll be watching. I'll catch it on The Soup.