Morning Glory? Not for Kevin Newman.

The one-time host of ‘Good Morning America’ finds the romantic ‘comedy’ eerily familiar

Morning Glory? Not for Kevin Newman.

The film portrays morning television as an arena for public floggings, conflicting egos and insecure executives; Newman (left) thinks that’s about right | Linda Mackie/Global; Paramount Pictures; Illustration by Bradley Reinhardt

I am not sure why I was eager to see Morning Glory. Maybe it was the same thing that drives any addict to test their level of recovery—exposure to what got them hooked. In my case, I am a news junkie who once hung out perilously close to where the hot steam escapes from the pressure cooker of network TV news. Now, here I was watching what claims to be a light romantic comedy about the inside workings of Americans’ morning television. I wondered if the hunger would return.

In the film, a plucky producer played by Rachel McAdams is handed the unenviable task of rescuing Daybreak, a morning show with plummeting ratings, anchored by a hard-news curmudgeon (Harrison Ford) and a former beauty-queen co-host (Diane Keaton). The writer of Morning Glory, Aline Brosh McKenna, did her research: that combination is typecasting for morning shows. There are many insider references in the script, like the intense competition for guest bookings. Even the name of the fictional network (IBS) rings true. Irritable bowel syndrome is also, uncomfortably, a medical condition common to those working the early shift.

Morning Glory portrays network TV’s most competitive time slot as an arena for public floggings, conflicting egos, and insecure executives. It is hardly pure fiction. Late in November, every host on the real CBS Early Show was fired and replaced. Earlier that month, a former executive producer of Good Morning America, reviewing Morning Glory, ripped into Charles Gibson and, in my view, slandered him for being a stick-in-the-mud who made her life hell. That wasn’t the Charlie I worked alongside at GMA, then replaced, then was replaced by after I was fired. If you had to read that last line twice you’re catching on.

It took me years to repair what nine months as GMA’s male co-host did to my confidence and career. I was offered the prestigious post in a hasty mid-afternoon phone call from the then-president of ABC News, David Westin. I remember thinking, “Shouldn’t this be a bigger deal than a short call?” I should have listened to that instinct. Too much change in TV is never a good thing, and ABC had quickly jettisoned a seasoned on-air team, replaced a homey set with a fake chrome Manhattan condo, and plunked two people on its art deco sofa who barely knew one another. That a Canadian had been hired to chirp “Good morning America!” became painfully obvious every time I ad-libbed about winter fun on toboggans and cleaning out eavestroughs. It was quickly apparent my co-host, Texan Lisa McRee, and I were struggling to develop the illusive chemistry of morning-TV news. We weren’t good at faking a married couple, brother and sister, or the holy grail of morning TV casting: secret lovers. We’d been handed a shotgun marriage, and to no one’s surprise had trouble bonding with four million viewers watching every eyebrow twitch and forced smile.
True to Morning Glory, the producers were also convinced the key to a ratings turnaround was to make the show “fluffier.” After several months of recipes, fitness tips, and how-to segments, they abruptly declared GMA “would do more hard news now.”

It was too late. The New York gossip pages were filled with stories of network executives auditioning replacements lest their careers go down with ours. There is a scene in the movie when Rachel McAdams’s producer is called on the carpet by the president of the division, played by Jeff Goldblum. Where he had been fun and welcoming nine months earlier, now he was icy and threatening. That scene cut pretty close to my truth. In Hollywood’s version of a morning show, the ratings reverse their slide through hilariously perilous stunts by the hapless weatherman, Ford finding his footing by breaking a good story, and Keaton warming up to him. There’s even hints of a tryst in the dressing room.

It didn’t end that way for us. We got another hasty phone call saying we were being replaced by Diane Sawyer and Charlie. When GMA celebrated its 35th anniversary last year, Lisa and I were nowhere to be found in its official history. We never happened. More than a decade later, Good Morning America still trails the Today Show and another new anchor team is struggling to find its footing.

We had our own Hollywood ending, though. Lisa created and hosted a program for public television in California and is raising the beautiful children she dreamed of having when we worked together. I have just finished a rewarding run establishing Global National and am ready for new challenges. As for the movie? I learned I can laugh about those years now, but that I still feel a thrill watching someone break a big story and miss the rewarding feeling of succeeding as a team. Most of all, however, it made me grateful to be a viewer of morning TV instead of making it. For the survivors, there is little glory to be had.

Kevin Newman co-hosted GMA from 1998-1999 and is now the founder of NewMan Media Ltd.




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Morning Glory? Not for Kevin Newman.

  1. I worked at GMA during its 30th anniversary year, and always found it weird that you, along with some other co-hosts, were barely acknowledged.

    I want to see this movie, if only to see if it accurately represents the staffing levels, and how often entire segments are thrown under the bus just hours before airtime.

    • @Kevin Ah yes, “KILL THE LOOKAHEAD!”, the three most oft-used words out of any producer’s mouth.

      As for the movie itself, I couldn’t bear to go see it. I knew it would end happily, and our careers on morning shows never do.

  2. There should be a spoiler alert on this story about the movie. FYI

  3. @Concerned Fan: Spoiler alert? This flop has been out since Nov. 10th. Maybe you should see movies you claim to be important in a timely fashion. BTW, Darth Vader is Luke's father. Bananas!!! (Also, consider it $12 saved.)

  4. Umm… this guy had a job 11 years ago that his bosses didn't like the way he was doing, he got replaced by two TV veterans with more prestigious careers (no matter the morning ratings), he went to Canada where nobody in general noticed, then a flop movie comes about about his former industry that gives him flashbacks and it's news? Get over whatever self you have.

    • Umm … Over the last decade, Kevin Newman basically went from being a semi-nobody to become the Canadian equivalent of of Brokaw/Jennings/Rather. In the process he made a boatload of cash, and just semi-retired a couple months ago at the ripe old age of 50(ish). He could write his own ticket at any of the US networks today if he had any desire to come back over the border.

      All in all, I think his resume comes off looking just a wee bit better than, say, yours.

      Oh, BTW, you’re aware this is a CANADIAN new magazine web site, right? Such publications do tend to seek out the opinions of well-known Canadians. Shocking, I know.

  5. The guy's business of which he is the "founder (NewMan Media Ltd.) isn't found on a Google search. I'll bet he believes he ended up with Rachel MacAdams, too.

  6. Hey Kev, I never knew you got the "news" on a quick phone call. How tacky! Although at least you didn't read about in in the paper or online.
    But "slander?" I gather you had tongue in cheek. That would mean I legally said something false.
    Quite the contrary.
    Hope you're well and happy.
    S.

    • Shelley,

      Were you the EP during Kevin's run? If so, it's your responsibility to "know" how Kevin and Lisa would get the news, because you could have chosen to deliver it in person yourself.

  7. You will be missed on Global National, Kevin. We were glad to have you and Canada's gain was certainly America's/GMA's loss.

  8. What is "illusive" supposed to mean? Illusory? Or elusive?

  9. My favorite viewing of Kevin Newman was on Sunday mornings when he and Aaron Brown had the best entertaining, wellrounded, thoughtful broadcasts. I missed GMA those years due to work schedule….But Sunday Mornings … were the best.

  10. As a viewer who thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Newman's exceptional work on the ABC overnight show "World News Now" in the 90s, perhaps the exegesis of his situation at GMA can best be summarized by the epitaph George Carlin suggested for himself: "Too hip for the room." Congrats and best wishes from your polka-loving Elite Guard supporters, who fondly remember all those times Thalia Assuras was "on assignment."

  11. Kevin who?

  12. You know what, people in this business, as well as every other get laid off in brutal ways
    every day. Most of them don't get to write boo hoo sob story articles about it. Instead they have to get
    back on their feet, feed their children, and take care of their families on the much lower salary than
    you collected. ABC just laid off 200 Nabet and technical employees in just as cruel and heartless a way as your phone call,
    why don't you write an article about them. No one wants to hear a high paid anchor whine over the atrocities
    of the TV News business. GET OVER IT.

  13. TV News Girl, you would do well to get over yourself as well. Kevin was long gone from ABC when the ax fell on the 200 NABET and technical employees you cite, but I'm sure he would have shown more compassion for those affected by that reduction in force than you have shown for his unceremonious ouster. Yes, layoffs are a fact of life in TV news just as they are in any other field of endeavour, but the general public's curiosity, fairly or not, tends to gravitate towards the talent in front of the camera. I thank Kevin for sharing his story and salute his perseverance.

  14. in the States, there is a generation of 50-something former print journalists trying to live on unemployment compensation right now. Most will never work in the business again. God knows what else is out there. "Fries with that?"

  15. I remember Kevin & Lisa hosting GMA. I liked him as anchor – she was the weak link in that team.

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