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MATT ZOLLER SEITZ: Brian Williams’ nostalgia act

MATT ZOLLER SEITZ: Brian Williams’ nostalgia act

The NBC anchor returns us to the days when news magazines — with actual reporting! — ruled prime time.

By Matt Zoller Seitz
Press Play Contributor

I felt a twinge of nostalgia watching the debut of Brian Williams’ news magazine Rock Center last night. It took me back to an odd period maybe 10 or 15 years ago, when the networks all figured out they could fill their schedules with news magazines that were cheap to make and reasonably smart (if sometimes trashy or alarmist) and draw at least as big an audience as whatever scripted shows they’d originally hoped to put there. At one point there were multiple versions of the various network news magazines on TV all at once: Dateline (NBC), 20/20 (ABC), 60 Minutes (CBS), 48 Hours (CBS), and a short-lived program called Public Eye With Bryant Gumbel (CBS), which probably no one remembers except me and Gumbel.

Rock Center feels like a nicer version of that Gumbel broadcast, a hybrid that combines old-school, radio-with-pictures TV reporting with wraparound segments in which the host interviews the correspondents about their work. It’s much less awkward, though, because Williams is wittier and more cheerful than Gumbel — he would have made a great permanent host of Saturday Night Live if he’d chosen to go that route — and because he doesn’t interrogate his correspondents like a sourpuss professor dressing down writers in a workshop.

You can read the rest of Matt’s piece here at Salon.

Matt Zoller Seitz is publisher of Press Play.

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