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NBC News "Today"

Megyn Kelly: Overcoming Fonzie-Syndrome


It’s tough to be least when you are seeking to branch out into other roles. No one knows this better than Henry Winkler. It doesn’t matter what character Henry Winkler took on post the “Happy Days” era. No matter how well he played it, in the end, viewers always wanted their Fonzie back as well as a single utterance of that iconic “Aaaaaye!” at the end of every performance.


Such is the plight of Megyn Kelly. Yes, she has had a bit of a rocky start in her new role hosting “Megyn Kelly Today”. But we all know that learning curves exist so this should not have been unexpected and certainly, reasonably forgiven under alternate circumstances. Unfortunately, entertainment is an unforgiving beast with a ton of backseat quarterbacks looking on -- many believing that they can "do it better" and so goes the critiques. Really?


If there is one thing we have all learned in watching talk show television, and especially morning show television, is that it is not as easy as it looks -- from the producers down to the talent. You need the exact right mixture to make a success, including a ton of elements you have zero control over.  


The biggest challenge Kelly faces is not that she is incapable of carrying out her new role or that she suffers from a depressed "likability" factor.  She is an enormously capable professional and not unlikable at all.  Her biggest challenge is that she was so damn good at the role she previously occupied that she suffers from Fonzie-syndrome. Whether she can shed this depends upon outside factors, predominantly. There is no doubt she has an accomplished, seasoned, and talented team underneath her and she, herself, is too.  But there is much more to it than that.   


Frankly, I understand and respect why she made the switch as your kids are only young once and life is short. But at the same time, viewers, and especially female viewers, admired her for her ability to carve a place in on-air journalism few women actually achieve. And then they, and everyone else, loved what she could do.


That gone, and with no one yet to fill this void so as to eliminate any remote possibility of her re-assuming it, I fear, Kelly may continue to fight Fonzie-syndrome, until the larger audience and critics can finally adopt an internal resolution and mindset of their own volition that frees her to come into her own in her new role either that or the right catalyst must arrive to break her from her past.


If neither of these scenarios occur, the highly adept and well-respected Andrew Lack - the big brains behind NBC News - will have to figure out another way to skin a cat and warrant the investment he made into wooing Kelly over to his network. I’m certain he is not short of ideas. You don’t get brought back to lead a network for a second time without being exceedingly clever and strategic and from what I’ve read of Mr. Lack, he is both and more.


Time will tell. But what it won’t do is deny Megyn Kelly’s talent or penchant for risk-taking. The most it will do is redirect them if need be. In other words, the Kelly file will remain active and open, in my opinion, whether in its current form, "Megyn Kelly Today", or an alternate one.  


Happier days lie ahead either way for NBC and Kelly, I am sure.


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