CBS rises and shines with revamped early news show

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FILE-In a Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011 file image released by CBS, from left, Erica Hill, Gayle King and Charlie Rose, the new hosts of a morning show that will replace “The Early Show,” are shown in New York. The new show premieres Jan. 9, 2012, and will air from 7:00-9:00 AM EST on CBS. (AP Photo/CBS, Craig Blankenhorn, File)

‘CBS This Morning” may not be a game changer, but the game just got more interesting.

The network on Monday launched a high-energy a.m. news show that looks and feels different from the uninspiring “Early Show” it replaced, as well as the NBC and ABC alternatives that have dominated the ratings for three decades.

Anchored by PBS stalwart Charlie Rose, Oprah BFF Gayle King and “Early Show” holdover Erica Hill, the program forgoes the cooking demos, service-oriented segments and we’re-all-one-big-happy-family-vibe that pervade “Today” and “Good Morning America.”

“CBS This Morning” leans toward harder news – the Republican primaries, stem cell fraud, fallout from the tell-all Obama book – at least for the first half of the two-hour program, which kicks off every morning with a 90-second montage of the day’s top stories (peppered with a little humor, like a clip of Kristen Wiig imitating Michele Bachmann on the recent “Saturday Night Live”).

During the second hour, King deftly swoops in to lighten things up with celebrity interviews, feature stories and a bit of breezy banter. Monday’s guests included Julianna Margulies, star of the CBS hit drama “The Good Wife.” That, coupled with a repurposed “60 Minutes” piece, is proof that at least one thing hasn’t changed: Morning shows remain popular vehicles to pimp other programs on their networks.

With its high ceilings, exposed brick and abundance of glass (even the green room has become a transparent holding tank for celebrities waiting to be interviewed), the “CBS This Morning” set feels more like a SoHo loft than the soft-lit suburban living room of rival shows, where anchors practically sit on top of one another.

The program’s reliance on pop music and flashy graphics sometimes make it feel like it’s trying too hard to be hip, which makes the decision to put Rose, 70, in the anchor seat all the more of a head-scratcher.

Rose’s mad skills as an interviewer aside, he comes off as an anachronism. It seemed like he was reading a foreign language when he referred to Beyonce and Jay-Z’s new baby, saying, “it’s been called a huge Twitter topic their Twitter friends have been tweeting.”

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