Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pre-empted by Imus

Don Imus is now the go-to morning guy of Fox Business Network, so it looks like my star turn as an early morning TV retail analyst has been short-circuited.

Earlier this month “Imus in the Morning” started simulcasting its syndicated radio program on the small but growing Fox Business Network. Imus replaced the “Money for Breakfast” show anchored by Alexis Glick.

Two months ago, on August 19, I made my FBN debut, talking about BJ’s Wholesale Club and its main competitors, Costco and Sam’s. Here’s a link, for those inclined to view it:

Appearing on one of the morning talk shows, if my FBN experience can be considered instructional, is more anticipatory than actually rewarding. In exchange for a few, very brief moments of on-camera fame, you spend about 18 hours fraught with tension that you’ll screw up. When they call to secure your availability (I turned them down twice before because of schedule conflicts), it’s always at the last moment, usually the afternoon before the actual broadcast.

Since I no longer worked in Manhattan, they sent a limo to shuttle me back and forth. The driver showed up at 6:30 am. We arrived at the News Corp. building at 47th Street and 6th Avenue by 7:10, sufficiently early to get some powder on my shiny face and to visit the powder room before air time, scheduled for 7:45. I'd be in the New York studio with the anchor and her associate, while the other segment guest would be in Minneapolis.

As anyone who has seen morning talk shows knows, keeping a fast pace is paramount to retaining viewer interest, even if it means abandoning a subject before anything meaningful is said. Segments usually are limited to under five minutes. There's little need to worry you'll be pitched a question out of left field. The show's booking producer had reviewed potential questions with me the day before.

What you do have to worry about is getting sufficient camera time, since there's no tactful way to cut off "Minneapolis Mike" (his name was actually Dan), and that is indeed what happened. He talked. And talked. And talked. At least that's what I felt during the four and a half minute segment. For my part, I tried to keep my answers short and to the point.

If you've ever wondered how they achieve different looks on the set, here's how they did it on Fox Business Network: the anchor sat at a central desk positioned on a rotating core. She'd be swiveled around to change the background for each segment. Off to one side was a platform where they literally tossed together pieces of an orange sectional couch. I sat on one of the sections, the sub-anchor interviewer on the other. The couch was rather deep. To avoid slouching, I had to prop a pillow behind my back.

There's no warm-up chatter. You wait in the wings listening to the prior interview. During the commercial break the couch is set up, they ask how your name is pronounced, you wince privately when they mangle it live on camera, and before you're able to sweat the interview is complete and ready to be downloaded for friends and family to see, because most of your friends and family don't get Fox Business Network from their cable providers.

FBN's limited exposure may change now that Imus is the morning man. I doubt it would have changed for the better had I been brought back for an encore.