Megyn Kelly was a Fox News contributor and sometimes-host for many years before getting her own primetime show on the network titled The Kelly File, which was very good. When she announced she would be leaving Fox News for a new hosting gig at NBC, it annoyed a lot of her fans because they felt abandoned and that Kelly had used Fox and it’s conservative viewer base to gain fame and fortune and then use that popularity as leverage to leave that network and that base and go to a rival mainstream source.
As a media observer, I thought there was definitely an element of “you’re supposed to dance with the one that brung you” to her departure, but also empathized with the move as she seemed to be increasingly out of place at Fox News in the era of Trump and while I personally saw that as an opportunity for her to take her show in more of a personal-story and investigative-reporting angle and less of the “news of the day” interviews and commentary – I could understand her wanting to take another opportunity with another network. While Fox was a good fit for her, I could imagine Kelly breaking big stories and see her bring her center-right feminist anti-Trumpism methodical interrogations to both a wider set of interview targets than would be willing to go on a Fox News show (cowards), and a wider audience than just the type that is willing to tune into the Fox News Channel for news and commentary. Especially of interest to me would be the mirror-image of her previous life she would be displaying at NBC – because at Fox News she was only regarded as conservative because that’s the general slant of the network at large, but Kelly in particular showed no reverence to conservative ideology, Republican party politics, or any such movement beliefs.
In other words: at Fox News, Megyn Kelly was an outsider voice providing the logic and prosecutorial deconstructions of things that don’t make any sense that the networks conservatives loved, while slipping in factual corrections, challenges to right-wing dogma, and a female-centric advocacy angle the networks viewers were open to but not necessarily clamoring for and thus got in their news diet stealth style like a dog eating its medicine wrapped in a slice of cheese.
At NBC, she would be an outsider voice providing the reverse: at a network with typically left-wing reporting choice and editorial coverage bias, Kelly would largely fit in in most thesis’ and tone, while slipping in factual corrections, challenges to those left-wing dogmas, and a female-centric voice for more reason based arguments than is present in the mostly emotionally driven Left. It would be interesting, I thought, to see Megyn deconstruct things like “no, it’s not okay to ‘punch Nazi’s” or gently remind viewers that Trump’s handling of recent hurricanes hasn’t been the neglectful “let them all drown” policy that many of his critics are opportunistically decrying.
Well, anyway – Never got to see any of that, because that’s not what either Megyn Kelly wanted or what NBC wanted for her.
Megyn debuted on NBC on Sunday nights with a show called Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly. It wasn’t very bad, but it wasn’t very good. Mostly it was just nothing. Nothing in the way of “nothing special” and “not a game changer” or even a dial mover in any way. She interviewed Putin. Which was nice for her I guess but the results weren’t anything big for news media consumers and didn’t get any love from news media critics. The observations in this article by John Ziegler were all much more interesting than the actual interview.
The only other interview I saw from this show was a Q&A with comedian Ricky Gervais which just kept had me thinking “why?…”. I like Ricky and I like Megyn and I don’t hate this interview, but… what’s the point? It was good for a podcast, but out-of-place as a Sunday Night news magazine item that appeared to be surrounded by other equally ho-hum items instead of being the moment of relief among other important or heavy toned topics.
Then Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly ended and Today with Megyn Kelly began. Today with Megyn Kelly took everything I expected from Kelly’s next chapter of life and was confused at not seeing in the Sunday Night and tripled down on it in this iteration…
“The truth is, I am kind of done with politics for now,” she declared in the inaugural episode of her Today show. and sure enough, the show was anything-related-to-news free.
I watched a couple clips and quickly thought “I miss the old Megyn Kelly“….
Rather than politics, she explained, her new show would focus on, well, emotions. “Have a laugh with us, a smile, sometimes a tear, and maybe a little hope to start your day,” she said. “Some fun! That’s what we want to be doing. Some fun.”
In one segment, she had a fashion expert convince women that they could, indeed, pull off high-waisted pants. In another, she made roast chicken. When the actor Russell Brand — who, in better days, might have been a worthy political adversary — confessed that he worries that he doesn’t look good enough and that his body isn’t good enough, she interrupted him. “You do. It is.”
It was the antithesis of the woman who was once willing to give up the support of her conservative audience to speak truth to power. The former Megyn Kelly came to slay, whether you liked it or not. The new Megyn Kelly is “so excited — so excited” and “also a little nervous; bear with me, please!” With every gesture, every word, every look, the new Megyn Kelly seems to be trying to convey one thing: Like me.
This was disappointing to me because the Megyn Kelly that was popular was not so because she was so “likeable” definitely not because she cared if you liked her – she was popular because she commanded respect through professional execution of prosecutorial talent. It is what made her goofier lighter moments on Fox so much more endearing and human – because they were coming from a professional. Ironically, this excited and emotion driven persona seems so…less human.
In another post, the previously cited John Ziegler voices the same reactions and concerns as I thought about the new show, although doing so under a harsher headline than I would choose myself that asks “So, Was the Old Megyn Kelly a Fraud, or is this New Version the Phony?“…
I get that humans can sometimes evolve and that as a media personality you have to remold yourself to fit the nature of the target audience. But what has happened with Megyn Kelly makes some of the transformations of Madonna or Lady Gaga’s seem rather tame by comparison.
The promotional lead up to Monday’s first show set a new standard for desperation. Each promo almost literally exuded estrogen in a frantic, obviously focused-grouped, attempt to show stay-at-home moms just how much Kelly is like them. The message seemed to be, “See, she’s rich, beautiful, famous, got attacked by our president, has kids and lady parts… just like you!”
The over-the-top efforts of the rest of the NBC Today Show staff to welcome her to their TV family have been so contrived as to make them appeared provoked by serious threats from the corporate suits who overpaid for Kelly’s services and are now very invested in trying to salvage this possibly doomed maneuver. However, it all feels like they are trying too hard to sell fancy cat food to a public which usually has an uncanny ability to smell inauthenticity, and may very well simply turn up its collective nose.
In fact, lack of genuineness seems to be biggest problem Kelly’s new show has. I doubt many of her old fans from Fox News will find her complete shedding of, and overt disdain for, her former persona and subject manner appealing. Nor will they find her attempt to be the combination of Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres (wrapped in the package of a pretty, straight, white woman) appealing. I also doubt the new “MSM” viewers are likely to completely buy this new, super soft, version of her any more than MSNBC loyalists took to Trump supporter Greta Van Susteren (who lasted only a few months there).
Roger Ailes was right about Megyn Kelly, why was Megyn Kelly wrong about Megyn Kelly? From the NY Times piece I quoted earlier:
Even as he was commenting on her bra choices, Roger Ailes himself was giving Ms. Kelly savvy advice that was, in a way, progressive. As she notes in her book, Mr. Ailes told her at the beginning of her career “to not try so hard to be perfect” and to show “who I really am.” Who she really was turned out to be smart, aggressive and impossibly quick. A former lawyer, she developed an adversarial approach that made her something of an anomaly among talk show hosts: Whether she was sparring with Anthony Weiner over President Barack Obama’s tax policy or with Donna Brazile over the Democratic National Committee’s hacked emails, Megyn Kelly was not there to make friends.