In hindsight, 2011 has been an unusually big year for TV transitions. With most of them, though, there's the threat of buyer's remorse -- bringing to mind a
Each of the aforementioned personalities is either starting a new job or leaving an old one. And while they are to perhaps be applauded for risking new adventures despite their success, some have discovered -- and the rest are likely to realize -- that being the right talent often requires being in the right place and time as well.
Couric, for example, thrived as co-host of the "Today" show, before braving a move to anchor "The CBS Evening News" five years ago. While she broke ground as the first solo female host of a nightly network newscast, few would argue that her tenure -- despite a few journalistic highlights -- paid off for the once-and-still-third-place broadcast. In other words, Couric learned the hard way that "Today" might have been her best job, just as Olbermann and Beck could wind up nostalgic for MSNBC and Fox News Channel, respectively.
Pelley, meanwhile, is expected to succeed Couric, but should already sense that anchoring the evening news isn't quite the plum assignment it was even five years ago. His role as a featured "60 Minutes" correspondent could beat it all to hell.
Even Oprah Winfrey -- given how OWN has stumbled out of the starting gate -- is receiving a cold splash of reality, reminded that broccoli TV ("Hey, it's good for you!") backed by slogans like "Live your best life" is an easier sell with the most powerful daytime franchise in history backing it up.
As previously noted in this space, the not-so-odd couple of Olbermann and Beck both found their oversized personas to be too much for their cable-news bosses to handle. Now Olbermann is moving his "Countdown" show to little-seen Current TV in June, with Beck remaining coy about details of his post-
Beck promised his acolytes they'll meet again, though it's hard to imagine a more perfect confluence of talent and timing than the incendiary host, FNC and
Finally, there's Sheen, who likes to tout his feature-film credentials but conveniently forgets how radioactive he once was before "Two and a Half Men" transformed him into TV's highest-paid star. Since his much-publicized meltdown, Sheen has had no trouble commanding the spotlight, but finding producers eager to work with him -- or insurance providers willing to cover him -- will limit the actor's options, at least in the short term, to the polluted periphery of the show-business carnival.
Nostalgia can be overblown in media circles -- they don't make 'em like Cronkite anymore -- but as Faulstich observed, these big names could easily look back wistfully on either the jobs they vacated in 2011 or in a case like Couric's, the ones that preceded them. Despite flying high, then, those attending that hypothetical party would be well advised to tread cautiously, because the next step can be a real doozy.
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