Saturday, April 07, 2007
"Talent Will Tell"
Most nights, I watch only the first three minutes of the evening news. Everyone knows the first three minutes are where it's at, and the other twenty-seven minutes are all weather teasers; superficial overviews of happenings nationally and internationally; the weather guy in an outside-the-studio weather garden ringing a bell because the night is, er, "clear as a bell"; hockey highlights; regional weather reports; weather-across-the-nation summaries; stories about how Gordy at Gordy's High-Hat Diner has been pleasing crowds for three decades with his well-fried hamburgers; and weather predictions for the following day, all capped off with some stilted banter between faux-jovial anchors ("That cold weather, Steve, that's kind of like 'brrrr, why do we live here, isn't it?'" "Don't you know it, Seth! I couldn't have said it better.")
Okay, I have to be honest here. I don't even think the first three minutes are worth tuning into, much less the other twenty-seven agonizing minutes. Local evening news--any evening news--is a bunch of overpackaged blather (Gordy and his burgers notwithstanding).
But sometimes I tune in, just to see if Dick Cheney's shot anyone that day.
And occasionally, even if Cheney has kept his finger off the trigger and his hands off George Bush's marionette strings, the evening news coughs up a goodie. For the last four years here in Duluth, those goodies have come from one source, a baby-faced newbie reporter-cum-anchor named Edward Moody.
My relationship with Edward started when he, a fresh graduate from some Kansas university, landed a job "here in the Northland." For his first assignment, his mettle was tested when studio heads packaged his lithe frame into a huge parka and stationed him, in the middle of a severe ice storm with hurricane-force winds, out on the most blustery corner in our beloved hamlet of Frigidville. For many greenhorn reporters, this would have been a moment with which they would not have reckoned at all well. Many unseasoned reporters would have watched their frozen fingers snap off, one by one, blowing away in the tempest, and decided, "Mom, Dad, I'm coming home to live in the basement. My blogging will keep me out of trouble; I promise."
But not Edward. Nae, Edward fluffed his parka, clung to the microphone with every frozen finger still dangling from his paw, and shouted to the camera with an enthusiasm bordering on glee: "This is Edward Moody, coming to you from the Coppertop Church, where small children are flying by my head, their bodies encased in ice! You can hear faint splashes as their bodies reach the lake and are tossed in!! Even better, cars all around me are skidding into light poles, but luckily their frames are buffered by the two inches of ice coating their exteriors. Indeed, this is no night for man, beast, or daycare to venture out!!!!"
Then he winked, turned a cartwheel right there in the church parking lot, and wrapped it all up by doing jazz hands after tossing a baton twenty feet into the air (not that he caught it; the baton was found the next day embedded into the side of the Positively Third Street Bakery, where it had narrowly missed decapitating a worker who was rolling out challah dough).
In short, Edward breathed passion and fire into that ice storm, melting hearts around the city.
The next day, I sent in my registration and dues for the as-yet-nonexistent Edward Moody Fan Club. It's a great club to be a part of, since there are no meetings or officers. We do nothing but tune into the universal vibe that is Edward. And we don't even have to watch the news to feel that. It just thrums amongst the stars.
After such an auspicious start, his natural talent and boyish enthusiasm fast-tracked him to a job as weekend and morning anchor. More than anything, the populace of Duluth has been eager to see him grow facial hair and hear his voice change. We've folded the lad unto our bosom, and isn't he turning out nicely?
So you can imagine how exponentially my affection grew a few months ago when I staggered down to the television one morning at 6:15, turning it on as I grappled about for a Backyardigans DVD that might sedate the Wee Niblet and tamp down his natural energies until at least sunrise, only to find Edward already in the studio, dapper in his usual sartorial splendor, presiding over the morning news.
I stood up a little straighter and ran a hand through my tousled hair, discreetly testing my breath in the palm of my hand (Verdict? Nasty.). Averting my mouth from the television, I watched peripherally, as Edward put his own stamp on morning anchoring.
At the end of the broadcast, Edward suddenly departed from reading the teleprompter, acting initially as though he was launching into some wooden repartee with the weather guy:
"It was my birthday yesterday, you know, Todd."
"Oh, well, happ--"
"And you know, Todd, I was feeling a little down..." [editor's note: It's hard to be a person of color here in Honkeytown, not to mention young and, I speculate, gay...so don't go getting the idea that feeling depressed is a usual thing for Edward. Don't. He's fine. He just had ONE hard day, all right?]
"Geez, Edward, that's too bad. But you know, we at the station all wish you a happ--"
"And so here's the thing, Todd. I went up to the mall..." [another editor's note: Bad idea, Edward. The mall never made anyone feel better, even if they got a Cinnabon. That thing goes to the hips for a lifetime and is the stuff of regret.]
"Wow, that's great, Edward. The mall is a great place to see some weather, which we now need to wrap up..."
"And after I'd walked around for awhile--feeling a little mopey, I'll admit--I headed out to the parking lot."
"Wow. Now we really do need to just recap the weather. Tomorrow we'll see..."
"And when I was in the parking lot, a woman drove by and recognized me. She stopped and rolled down her window to tell me that she's a fan and how much she likes the broadcast..." [editor's note: How could she not? It's EDWARD, and he is possessed of a natural charisma the likes of which Bill Clinton only aspires to] "...and then she started telling me about how watching our show has really helped get her through some hard times."
"Sure enough, people have hard times in all kinds of weather, don't they, Edward? And if I could just go into some of that NOW..."
"So I listened to her tell me about her thirteen-month-old son and how he'd been really having a really hard time because he'd needed a series of eye surgeries..." [editor's note: I don't have a thirteen-month-old, already. And no eye surgeries. I wasn't at the mall that day. Sure, one time I ran into Edward at the grocery store and mauled him near the butter, asking him, "So who *does* choose your on-air clothes? Because you are always so turned out." But, swearsies, that was not me at the mall that day.] "...and she was just telling me how difficult the last year has been for her and how she really appreciated the brightness I'd brought into her mornings..."
"That's really interesting, Edward. We're just about out of time here, so quickly, let me just warn..."
"And after I thanked her for her kind words, I really had a moment there. I know we're about out of time, Todd, but it really hit me there in the parking lot that no matter how bad you think you've got it, there's always someone else who has it worse...." [editor's note: I'm sure the hard-times woman felt really good about herself when she watched you say that, Edward. But we can forgive you one gauche misstep. You're young, after all, and compassion comes in baby steps.] "...and so I needed to buck up and realize that I should just be appreciating what I have. Now, Todd, I know I've used up your time here, but we've got to sign out now. This is Edward Moody, along with Todd Hansen, hoping you have a good day."
As the cameras pulled back, Todd's body language remained agitated--after all, he hadn't finished off his broadcast with the much-needed thirteenth reminder to "grab an umbrella before heading out"--while Edward's face softened into misty dreaminess as he further mused on the lessons of his birthday.
The following week, swear to Cronkite, Todd Nelson announced that he would be switching stations and becoming the weather dude for a new FOX nightly news broadcast.
My forecast for Todd in his new job? A cold front of completely scripted weather updates, sprinkled with showers of awkward banter alternating with deep sighs of opportunity-missed, topped off with patches of keening for the sunshine that is Edward "Keepin' It Real" Moody.