Variety: Ronan Farrow Awesome on Twitter, Awful on TV

“There’s no sense in tapping talent from social media if the TV world can’t recreate the kind of environment that made that talent so compelling in the first place.”

Variety’s digital editor-in-chief Andrew Wallenstein calls Ronan Farrow’s new MSNBC show a “dud” that features a Farrow that little resembles the charming, witty, insightful Twitter persona that helped win him the job, and one that will continue to fail if MSNBC doesn’t make changes quick.

Wallenstein highlights Farrow’s impressive resume, including his graduation from college at 15, degrees from Yale Law and Oxford University, a Rhodes scholarship, and his work with the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Obama administration. But, Wallenstein argues, this part of his resume isn’t really why he landed the hosting gig:

Impressive as all that is, none of those credentials finishes among the top three reasons MSNBC gave him his own show last month. In ascending order, they are: the endless promotional value that comes with his being the progeny of Mia Farrow; his movie-star good looks; and most important of all … he’s awesome on Twitter.

Wallenstein calls Farrow’s Twitter persona “a combination of funny, charming or insightful” that manages not to commit the common sin of overdoing it, which makes it "all the more mystifying" that his show has "turned out to be such a dud."

Wallenstein attempts to pinpoint the problem, mentioning the distraction of his “eerie resemblance to his alleged is-he-or-isn’t-he father Frank Sinatra” and the hindrance of actually being too attractive, with his “limpid pools he calls eyeballs” that are “so mesmerizing it’s easy to lose track of what he’s saying." Despite his emphasis on Farrow's "distracting" looks, however, Wallenstein doesn't think that's the real obstacle:

But being too telegenic isn’t really the problem here. In his opening weeks on the air, Farrow has seemed tentative and ill at ease, prone to stumbling on his words. More to the point, he just doesn’t resemble the guy who is so dazzling on social media.

Wallenstein tries to offer some advice to MSNBC to save the show, suggesting a move in the O’Reilly Factor direction, which provides more scripted content, with interviewees who “are really just furniture,” arguing, “It’s here where Farrow could have employed the wit and opinion he puts to such good use on Twitter, but is totally muffled in his current vehicle.” Wallenstein contends it's not too late to save the show, but big changes will have to be made:

If the network is simply hoping that with enough air time he won’t come off so green, that would represent a fundamental misunderstanding of what isn’t working. There’s no sense in tapping talent from social media if the TV world can’t recreate the kind of environment that made that talent so compelling in the first place.

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