The Cable Gamer has been thinking about the departure of Elisabeth Hasselbeck from Fox & Friends, the leading cable news morning show by a mile. Maybe two miles. Its longevity at the head of the pack is due to a combination of right-leaning political segments, couch chemistry, plus humor, entertainment, and even the occasional physical challenge. The smart money says to replace Ms. Hasselbeck the powers that be are looking at Ainsley Earhardt, who is a frequent choice to sub-host in the center position, or weekend host Anna Kooiman.
Both have strengths and weaknesses. Ainsley is smooth on camera, everybody likes her, and she’s been around longer. But some (not The Cable Gamer) find her too nice, too sweet…too “good” for the rough-and-tumble morning news wars. Anna gives new meaning to the word “bubbly.” She’s perpetually cheerful, with a can-do attitude that F&F exploits by sending her out on adventures ranging from batting practice to flying with a stunt pilot. But she’s not quite as polished at speaking extemporaneously as Ainsley, though that could improve over time.
There are other names of course, plus the possibility TPTB will hire a big-name outsider, as they did with Elisabeth. But another option surfaced this week when Sandra Smith found herself on the curvy couch for two days. Ms. Smith, familiar with the morning grind from Fox Business, and comfortable in unscripted situations thanks to Outnumbered, moved into the Fox & Friends role as if she’d been doing it for years. And suddenly it starts to look like a three-way race.
Gretchen Carlson hosted F&F for years; she had a solid journalistic resumé before coming to FNC, not to mention an Oxford education. When she was replaced with Elisabeth, Obama had started his second term. The next Presidential election was years away. Roger Ailes had time to work with someone who lacked serious reportorial credentials but had undeniable star power. Now that we’re in a big Presidential year, it may be time to tip the balance back to newsy experience. Before coming to FBN ten years ago Sandra was a reporter for Bloomberg. She can handle financial news, politics, even celebrity gossip, and is about to moderate her second Presidential debate. What’s not to like? One commenter summed up the case for Sandra:
I think Sandra also has a leg up because she already has two kids (might be done) so they wouldn’t lose her to maternity leave. But she has kids…which is a plus…because it makes her more likeable and relateable. Also, I think Sandra is far more knowledgeable on a wide variety of topics. Sandra can handle real substance. And Sandra has proven herself very well on Mornings With Maria and Outnumbered. Not to mention, the great job she did in the FBN debate …which I’m sure she’ll do great again during the next one.
The Cable Gamer has heard that there are those on the Avenue of the Americas who found Ms. Smith’s two days on F&F quite illuminating. Not only did they echo some of what was said just above, but there was even an invocation of the G-word. Gravitas. And that’s significant because while Fox & Friends is an audience hit, “gravitas” has never been considered its strong suit, particularly among the elites. And who wouldn’t like some R-E-S-P-E-C-T to go along with the ratings trophies?
Of course two days do not an audition make. And Ms. Smith hasn’t had much opportunity as yet to show her stuff when it comes to getting physical. A trip down the water slide, or maybe a run in the Tough Mudder obstacle course, would tell more. Elisabeth, a natural athlete, excelled at these kind of things. And yes, The Cable Gamer admits she enjoys watching the physical stunts. (Maybe it was too much Double Dare.) But while being a good sport is fine, being a good sport with gravitas—there’s that G-word again—well, that may be the sweet spot for the next F&F host. With Sandra Smith, Fox & Friends may have found its G-spot.