If life were to be cut into three acts, if we all were permitted to live as long as Andy Rooney– his third act starting at the age of 58, was certainly his most culturally relevant. What do I mean by that? Yes, he was a journalist during World War II and a writer for many well known television people for many years– but the reason we all know his name is because of his few minutes with Andy Rooney that started in 1978. His third act came latest and lasted longer than any other act–in a world so fascinated with youth and prodigal genius, his tardiness is an inspiration to us all in whatever we do.
If you watch several dozen Andy Rooney clips, as I’ve done the past couple of days, you will also notice the tone in which he’s introduced. I’ve noticed a different tone between some of the older gaurd at 60 minutes and those newer to the train. It generally ranges from suspicion, to light contempt, to wink wink, the old crazy man’s about to speak. In his passing, what these esteemed colleagues and ego maniacs have seemingly all agreed on are at least these two points:
1) The guy was memorable – Andy Rooney is the person most people ask them about when they’re out in the field.
2) He brought in the numbers – When Andy Rooney was suspended in the late 80s, Don Hewitt begged for him to come back as soon as possible because the ratings were starting to go into the toilet. The ratings tended to go up over the course of the hour despite the fact, the producers generally put their most impressive story at the top of the show.
As someone who has had introductions similar to Andy’s throughout my entire life, and who generally associates with others who do as well, I consider Andy Rooney & Don Hewitt trailblazers in the respect that the first parts of 60 minutes clearly are the ones people SAY and want you to think they are watching for– when the truth is, a lot of people actually stuck around each week for Andy, whether the bigshots in the beginning had duds or not. Don Hewitt tried a lot of crazy things at the end of the show before he got to Andy(point/counter point?). It took guts to not only give a frumpy writer who had never been on a television a shot, but to keep him there long enough for the American people to understand the truth in what you saw.
Broadcast television is a hard business and when someone like Andy Rooney dies it also reminds one it may soon be a lost art. At Schmooru, we still consider ourselves broadcasters, even on the internet. Its a lot harder to attempt to make programming that in some way can relate to the largest audience you can find out there, than to preach to a certain choir–and still have it be interesting. Andy Rooney, in his longevity and in his controversy is exemplar in how to do just that.
Meanwhile– F. Nick Michaels, doesn’t like Milk:
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