Chuck Todd should be seated at the head of table: And other random “Meet the Press” musings

Meet the Press Set

New “Meet the Press Set” – Photo courtesy,

Six weeks and five episodes into Chuck Todd’s run as moderator of “Meet the Press,” now seems like a good time to dish out some pent-up thoughts pertaining to NBC’s venerable television franchise.

I’ve been watching “Meet the Press” semi-regularly since 2007. I regret that I had not begun watching it sooner, having missed out on much of Tim Russert’s run as moderator.

I’ve agreed with the general sentiment towards David Gregory and that the show had appeared to operate off a paint  by numbers formula. The public’s reaction to the news in late August that NBC’s Chuck Todd would take over as the show’s moderator was a mixed bag, and for a variety of reasons.

While it would be hard to find anyone from within the news media who doubt that Todd is as affluent in politics as it comes, some people hesitate that he just doesn’t have the demeanor or looks to hold down such a prominent television hosting role. The more general sentiment is that the Sunday morning talk show routine has run its course and that Todd represents more of the status quo.

The digital age and 24/7 news media has certainly lessened the overall impact of the Sunday morning talk shows.  While the Sunday talk shows continue to skew towards an older audience, shows like the “Daily Show,” “The Colbert Report,” and “Last Week Tonight,” deliver fresh and exciting content on a subject that often leaves people angry and frustrated — and they skew younger.

Prior to the anointing of Todd as the new “Meet the Press” moderator, there were suggestions that NBC News was leaning towards, or at the very least exploring, radically different means to help differentiate the show from its Sunday morning competitors.

Here’s how Politico’s Dylan Byers narrated such possibilities in his Aug. 15 report:

In fact, even Todd’s bosses needed to be persuaded. Deborah Turness, the president of NBC News, was lukewarm on him, sources at the network said. Disappointed by the program’s poor ratings under host David Gregory, she had entertained all manner of revisions: Moving the show to New York and handing it over to a more affable, nonpolitical personality like Savannah Guthrie, the co-host of the “Today” show; changing the show’s name; perhaps even canceling it and starting over. That Turness was considering such diverse and radical options right up until the end — while Gregory was left to twist in the wind, enduring an onslaught of criticism and negative press — shows just how uncertain she was about the appropriate solution.

Just last week, word came out that NBC News offered the moderator chair to the “Daily Show’s” John Stewart(!).

Also, the fact that Deborah Turness might even for a second consider cancelling the show is just batshit crazy.

I just can’t shake the feeling that giving the job to Todd was a reluctant move by NBC. I hope I’m wrong, because even though the Sunday morning talk show formula may be incapable of living up to the relevance in had prior to the digital age and 24/7 news, I still find it to be an important cog in the overall political news media. Todd alone is a vast improvement over Gregory, and I like how has so far come across on the show.

Hopefully, the recently upgraded set is a vote of confidence in Todd by the NBC News brass. However, I question the necessity of a new set. The previous “Meet the Press” set was introduced in 2010 and was yet to come across as out of date. One thing I don’t like since Todd took over is the anchor desk he shares with his roundtable. Though it’s only a small caveat, I believe being moderator of “Meet the Press” is an esteemed honor, enough so that the host should rightfully be seated at the “head” of the desk, if you will, apart from the rest. Simply sitting in the middle doesn’t separate him enough, in my opinion. Todd either feels more comfortable being seated in the middle with the roundtable guests or NBC made that cosmetic decision for him.

For now, I’ll continue to enjoy “Meet the Press” for what it’s worth. A simple re-hash of the week’s most important news and political stories along with some debate that I may or may not enjoy, pending the guests. While I happen to like Todd’s attempt at a slightly more casual and viewer friendly program, I don’t know if that will be enough to lure people away from ABC’s “This Week” or CBS’s “Face the Nation.” If he can’t, I reckon his leash will be shorter than Gregory’s (six years).

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