Monday, February 8, 2010

Give Me Back My Weather Channel!

What the hell is happening at the Weather Channel?

When I was in college, we watched the Weather Channel for two reasons: (1) to find out about the weather and (2) we thought Jeanetta Jones was a hottie. Now, hottie or not, Jeanetta seemed to know her stuff. You could rely on her and her colleagues to tell you about the weather and know their geography. Best part was, when they were done with the weather, they stopped talking!

Here's the weather. Cut to commercial.

Here's the weather. Cut to Doppler radar.

Here's the weather. Cut to someone's home movie of kids playing in three feet of snow.

Back then, the Weather Channel knew what it was. It's on-camera talent did not seem to think of itself as anything other than what it was -- a bunch of people who tell you if today's weather requires shorts or a sweater. In recent years, however, the channel has been taken over by wannabe celebrities.

It started a while ago with the likes of Jim Cantore throwing himself into the paths of raging storms and natural disasters. While I'm sure Cantore has gained considerable knowledge in his time served at the Weather Channel, I'm not sure standing in 70-mile-per-hour winds in a Denny's parking lot watching the roof get ripped off a gas station teaches you anything you couldn't have learned watching it on video from the safety of a studio.

Let's face it, anyone else standing outside, yelling at the top of his lungs in the middle of a hurricane, clutching to a street sign while gale-force gusts threaten to tear off his rain slicker would be considered an idiot by most people and a strong example in support natural selection. But put a camera in front of him and a mic in his hand and somehow he's performing a public service?

I'm reminded of the flack Bernard Shaw took during the Gulf War when he was reporting for CNN from Baghdad. Missiles started flying through the streets, so he hid under his desk in his hotel room. Some people called him a coward. Not me. Had I been in his place, not only would I have been hiding under a desk, I would have needed new underwear. While news people may be gutsy, entrenched, or even in danger, the truly brave journalists are those who tell us what we don't want to hear, not the fool-hardy ones who pointlessly jeopardize their welfare to show us what we can already see.

Back to the Weather Channel: Would somebody please put a muzzle on Stephanie Abrams? Who among the ownership of the Weather Channel is this gratingly annoying motormouth related to that she keeps getting one failed vehicle after another wasted on her?

She might be the sweetest, nicest, smartest, most generous woman ever born but watching her on TV is painful. Maybe I'm getting old, maybe age has diminished my tolerance for ceaseless blabber, I don't know... Just please make her stop. I understand her job requires her to talk for a living but she never seems to know what she's talking about, like each sentence that springs out of her mouth comes as a complete surprise to her.

I'm not heartless, mind you. A few months ago, when the Weather Channel launched "Wake Up With Al" featuring Al Roker with Abrams as co-anchor, I feared for her. Done teaming her up with other Weather Channel rank and file, the powers that be expected Abrams to hold her own against a seasoned professional like Al Roker.

Fortunately for her, Roker has proven to be unprofessional, unprepared, and exponentially more annoying than anyone in the history of televised weather reporting. Who knows? Maybe teaming Abrams with someone less likable was the plan all along just to help her image. That, or Roker simply hasn't realized he can't get by his entire professional life imitating Willard Scott.

Whatever is going on at the Weather Channel, I wish they would stop it.

Last month when snow and ice hit North Carolina, I didn't need Jim Cantore standing next to a snowbank along I-85 telling me the storm was heavier near the airport in north Charlotte (the airport lies west of uptown Charlotte) and even heavier just an hour away in Raleigh (actually a 170-mile drive). I would rather he stay in the studio doing his research to get his geography straight.

Jeanetta Jones would have.

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