Ronan Farrow is the manic pixie dreamcaster MSNBC’s Phil Griffin has been looking for
MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow, who has hosted three hours of daytime television so far in his career, will receive The Cronkite Award for Excellence in Exploration and Journalism at an annual Reach The World event tonight.
…although this shy woodland creature does need to be handled with the greatest of care:
“The theme of the evening is global education and service,” a memo to the press reads. “All press are required to stay strictly on message. Any press who ask guests or Mr. Farrow about off-message topics will be immediately escorted out of the event.”
This is Ronan’s Night of Journalistic Excellence, you ink-stained wretches, you J-school grinds. Mind you manners and your station in life.
But who is this delightful Ronan Farrow, with the looks that makes your grandmother want to bake him cookies, and makes your recently divorced 45 year-old aunt want to make a weekend getaway meal out of him?
Where the hell have you been?
Ronan Farrow is the preternaturally bright and privileged son of a broken not-marriage who was going to college at an age when when you were probably making notes in your Trapper Keeper on the best Slurpee flavor combos. He was attending Yale law school when you folding polos at The Gap. Rhodes Scholar, UNICEF Spokesperson for Youth, NGO’s aplenty, chief counsel at the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, special adviser to future President of All Of Us Hillary Clinton….
So what have you got?
Farrow is one of the brightest stars in the firmament and, had he not caught the eye MSNBC President Phil Griffin, he might, at this very moment, be developing a cure for a disease. Probably one of the ones that has deeply affected you personally in your lifetime.
But Phil Griffin took one look into Young Ol Blue Eyes and he saw starbursts, baby:
Last summer, when he got the call from MSNBC, Farrow was living in a charmingly musty dorm room at Magdalen College, Oxford, England. He had left a job at the State Department for a Rhodes scholarship, studying politics and international relations. Farrow assumed MSNBC wanted him to make appearances as a talking head on their shows. He had written articles decrying what he saw as the American government’s obsession with secrecy and the partisan tenor of the Congressional hearings on Benghazi and had been invited to talk about them on television. But Phil Griffin, the president of the network, had other ideas. He’d seen clips of Farrow giving interviews and speeches and was impressed. “I started following him on Twitter,” he told me recently, “and loved the way he talked about things.” When Farrow was in New York, the two sat down for a chat. “Within 20 minutes I wanted to hire him,” Griffin says. “He’s got it.”
MSNBC and kissing cousin NBC have an affinity for The Children of The Nepotism: Mark Halperin, Willie Geist, Luke Russert, Chelsea Clinton, Jenna Bush, Mika Brzezinski. Like a baseball general manager, they’re always looking for a Ken Griffey Jr. only to usually end up with Pete Rose Jr.
And then they don’t know how to get lose the kid short of taking him to the grocery store, sending him off for candy, racing out to the parking lot, driving home, and then moving out of state.
Griffin has been trying to turn MSNBC into Brand Millennial with a hipper class of wonks like Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes, but has met with mixed success. Nowhere is this better exemplified than The Cycle with it’s mixture of hashtag-dropping news-chat bonhomie that makes it feel like a slightly more serious Corona commercial … but without the beer.
In Ronan Farrow, Phil Griffin sees the keys to Magic Land of The Coveted 18-49 Demo. Farrow is dreamy and smart and cool and young and fresh and perfect and everything everyone – including Griffin - wants to be. Ronan is the adorable Rorschach of Griffin’s dreams. He is Youth, and youth loves youth.
Except they really don’t.
Ronan Farrow‘s debut as host of Ronan Farrow Daily on MSNBC scored 216,000 viewers Monday — the cable network’s smallest audience of the day, tied with 10 AM’s Jansing & Co. Farrow — who was recruited, in part, to attract the next generation of news viewers to the network — averaged just 21,000 viewers in the younger 18-49 demo.
Two things are at play here.
One – Griffin seems to be counting on a generation that has never really watched TV news-talk shows to suddenly toss aside The Bachelor to watch the cute guy explain it all to them. But when cute, albeit smart, guy starts talking The Ukrainian Blues, well, there are lots of other channels full of attractive people saying stupid stuff that is entertaining in a calculated, focused group-approved way.
Secondly, and admittedly this was his first show: Farrow isn’t ready for prime time.
Watch the clip below and I imagine it’s like re-watching the old audition tape for the last Loveable & Perkiest Host On TV: MTV’S Martha Quinn.
This isn’t to say that Farrow couldn’t grow into the role. He is obviously quite smart and Griffin has a lot invested in him so he’ll no doubt get the best tutors and handlers MSNBC’s money can buy. The reviews have been kind in a polite other-parents-at-a-piano-recital-applauding kind of way.
For now, he’s in the 1PM slot, which kind of makes him the After-School Special of wonk shows, so not much is expected of him.
But Phil Griffin is hoping and wishing that you will tune in and fall with those blue eyes just like he did after twenty minutes, not counting commercial breaks.
Because those are the thing that dreams are made of. And, hopefully, ratings.
[Image: Ronan Farrow's Facebook ]