Magazine article Newsweek

CBS Gets Ready to Gumbel

Magazine article Newsweek

CBS Gets Ready to Gumbel

Article excerpt

In the battleground that is morning television, "CBS This Morning" has long been General Custer. In an effort to take on NBC's soaring "Today" and ABC's revitalized "Good Morning America," CBS announced Tuesday that Bryant Gumbel would take the reins of a revamped morning show, set to launch from a brand-new street-level Fifth Avenue studio this fall. From 1982 to 1997, Gumbel cohosted "Today," where he earned a reputation as a razor-sharp interviewer with a first-rate ego. He jumped networks two years ago to helm the short-lived news magazine "Public Eye," and has been on the CBS sidelines ever since. NEWSWEEK's Kendall Hamilton sat down with Gumbel last week.

HAMILTON: CBS chief Leslie Moonves said a while back that you'd "rather be shot in the head" than return to morning TV. What's changed?

GUMBEL: He ran out of bullets. Actually, he said that right after I had come off "Today." Any time you've been on a grind for 15 years, the idea of doing it again seems alien. But like a lot of things, when you step back, you see them in a different light. I missed live television. The morning is the only growing part of the network business, and we had a chance to build something from the ground up.

What concerns did you have?

First of all, it was the facility. For better or worse, in these times a street-side studio levels the playing field. I think it's very difficult to compete if you don't have it. Beyond that, the studio was indicative of the corporation's commitment. CBS has a history with the mornings of "Well, it didn't work last month, let's change it. It didn't work this month, let's change it again. Let's bring on a dog, let's bring on an actress, let's do anything." You don't want to jump in there with people who aren't going to be as committed to it as you are.

Some people wonder if this isn't a step backward in terms of your career.

I find that amusing. I don't know why somebody would consider it a step back. Don't forget that Katie Couric also had a news magazine that went down in flames. She went back to "Today," and I'm not sure anybody ever said that was a step back. I don't know how one figures doing two hours of live television is a step back.

Have you heard from the competition?

Matt [Lauer] and I are the best of friends. We just had dinner Friday night, so none of this came as news to him. …

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