Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Morning' the Glory Days of Television Exploring Dark Side of Early Show

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Morning' the Glory Days of Television Exploring Dark Side of Early Show

Article excerpt

Title: Morning

Author: W.D. Wetherell

Data: Pantheon, 368 pages, $24.95

Review by Dan Scanlan

Morning television changed on Jan. 14, 1952, when former Chicago disc jockey Dave Garroway began his stint on NBC's Today show.

It was an entirely new way to present news, views and celebrities in the wee hours, with Garroway and his horn-rimmed glasses joined by announcer Jack Lescoulie, newsman Jim Fleming and J. Fred Muggs, a chimpanzee. And to make it more interesting, the show was done live from a windowed studio that fronted a downtown Manhattan street, so passers-by could watch it.

In real life, Garroway left the show, then it moved indoors. But that's not how it ends in W.D. Wetherell's new novel, Morning, an intriguing and sometimes very dark look at a fictional but very similar morning show from TV's golden era.

In the book, the bespectacled host, Alec McGowan, needs drugs to start his morning after a night of drinking and carousing, while his co-host, Chet Standish, is nearly blind and stumbles into everything. Their chimp bites people, while they go through a string of "Morning Girls" in 1953 and early '54 until they select McGowan's former girlfriend, Lee Palmer. Then the golden age ends when Standish shoots McGowan and Palmer in a jealous rage and is sent away to prison for the rest of his life.

Fast forward 46 years and cue Alec Brown, estranged son of the senior Standish, whose mother changed their last name after the murder. The senior Standish is pardoned from his life sentence because he is dying from cancer. The younger Standish is the only one left to get him and coincidentally seems to be exorcising his own personal demons by doing a book on the premier morning show his father made even more famous wth the shooting.

Brown has interviewed many of the people who worked on that famous early TV show. Now the man he has heard and written about is real, not just a memory. The thick glasses are still there, as is that deep, warm radio voice. …

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