Barbara Walters' reported retirement at 83 doesn't just mark the end of an illustrious, wildly successful career that spans 52 years. It marks the end of a dying breed: The larger-than-life woman TV journalist.
It's without an ounce of sentimentality or nostalgia that I say, no one will ever be able to replace Walters — because Walters' position no longer exists.
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Most famous for her incredible interviewing skills, Walters is often named on the list of the industry's best female journalists of all time, a list that sadly doesn't usually inch past 20 names. (The Atlantic's recent list makes it to 22 while top journalism school New York University stops short at 21, but both include Walters.) But her impact goes beyond the practice of TV journalism, in which she excelled by becoming the first ever female national nightly news co-anchor, followed by her newsworthy interview series The Barbara Walters Specials. Walters covered all angles of our culture, leading her to become a pop culture icon in addition to her success as a newswoman, even landing a spot on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time — a list that included Dick Van Dyke, Lassie, and Miss Piggy. In a way, Walters became the most famous face of women in journalism throughout her career. Now that she's stepping down, it's hard to imagine anyone, even the likes of Katie Couric or Christiane Amanpour, taking up her mantle.
Couric and Amanpour are important examples because they both represent different segments of Walters' legacy. Couric is forging the path as the "new Walters," coming up through the Today Show machine, being outsed as a nightly national news anchor (Walters was booted when viewers failed to accept her as a female nightly news anchor), and starting up her own series that makes headlines for its interviews. But Couric's career slides a little away from Walters' monumental example, with her daytime talk show Katie angling more towards Oprah than a Barbara Walters Special with episodes titled "Tina Fey & Paul Rudd’s College Confessions" and "How to De-Stress Your Life with Goldie Hawn and Deepak Chopra."
Amanpour, on the other hand, is all business. Known primarily for her reporting, Amanpour is more of an investigative journalist than Walters, but it's her nightly news interview series Amanpour (in addition to her position as CNN's chief international reporter) that could put her at an angle to take up mantle of Walters' long list of landmark interviews, including Fidel Castro, Indira Gandhi, and Hugo Chavez.
The issue, however, is that there is no singular woman in TV journalism who is primed and ready to take up Walters' post, effortlessly balancing the seriousness of hard-hitting journalism and the pop culture appeal of a host on The View. And there never will be. Amanpour, Rachel Maddow, and MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell may be some of the leading women in TV journalism, but they're not Walters, and it's not entirely clear that they even want to be.
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Part of that comes from the way in which online journalism is segmenting TV reporting. Because of the rise of online journalism and the ability to access it through mobile devices, TV news is slowly declining. A recent study from the Pew Research Center for People and the Press reports that the number of people under 30 who get their news from television has decreased from 49 percent in 2006 to 34 percent in 2012. Meanwhile the number of people who get their news online, through social media (which includes through journalists' own Twitter feeds) has increased from nine percent to 19, and it's growing.
At the same time, few serious women journalists on TV could even qualify for a gig like Walters' post on the view. It was about a year ago that Anne Curry was pushed out of the Today Show, a spot she'd more than earned, because her style was too austere and weighty, where the show was seeking light-heartedness and fluff. Now, the morning program is reportedly seeking Anderson Cooper as a potential savior — not because of his extensive experience as a reporter, but rather his ability to cuddle Grumpy Cat, field Kathy Griffin's sexual advances on live TV, and become a giggling mess at the mention of a Gerard Depardieu bathroom pun. At this rate, it seems more likely that we'll see Miss Grumpy Cat herself or Kid President take over Walters' yearly "10 Most Fascinating People" program, than a serious personality like Maddow or Amanpour.
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But this lack of a Walters' successor isn't necessarily something to mourn — Barbara, herself, will be missed, but her position won't be, necessarily. While women journalists still have a long way to go to match the numbers and fame of their male counterparts, her placement as a sort of catch-all persona for the plight of the woman reporter has done all it can. It proved that a journalist at the top of their field doesn't have to be a man; it proved that an interview with a political leader can be just an influential as one with a pop icon; it proved that a woman could become wildly famous for more than her beauty or her charm, but for the brain inside her head.
And as we move further and further into an age of famed Internet-based journalists and more specialized TV journalists like Amanpour — who has a lock on international news — and Maddow, who built her career on her outspokenness and honesty rather than her universal appeal, the echo of Walters' influence is everpresent. And in a way that's the highest compliment she could be paid: she's infinitely influential and completely irreplaceable.
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
[Photo Credits: Donna Svennevik/ABC; Peter Kramer/AP Photo]
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If there's a cinematic alchemy award to be given this year director Bill Condon deserves to take it home after magically turning the tedious Twilight franchise into entertainment gold. 2011's Part 1 was a horror camp romp that turned the supernatural love triangle — the naval gazing trio of Bella Edward and Jacob — on its head. Breaking Dawn - Part 2 continues the madcap exploration of a world populated by vampires and werewolves mining even more comedy thrills and genuine character moments out of conceit than ever before. The film occasionally sidesteps back into Edward and Bella's meandering romance (an evident hurdle of author Stephenie Meyer's source material) but the duller moments are overshadowed by the movie's nimble pace and playful attitude. Breaking Dawn - Part 2 will elicit laughs aplenty — but thankfully they're all on purpose.
Part 2 picks up immediately following the events of the first film Bella (Kristen Stewart) having been turned into a vampire by Edward (Robert Pattinson) to save her life after the torturous delivery of her half-human half-vampire child Renesmee. She awakes to discover super senses heightened agility increased strength… and a thirst for blood. One dead cougar later Bella and the gang are able to focus on the real troubles ahead: Renesmee is rapidly growing (think Jack) and vampiric overlords The Volturi perceive her a threat to vampiric secrecy. Knowing the Volturi will travel to Forks WA to kill the young girl (a 10-year-old just a month after being born) The Cullens amass an army of bloodsucking friends to end the oppression once and for all.
Packed with an absurd amount of backstory and mythology-twisting plot points (some vampires can shoot lightning now?) Condon and series screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg mine revel in the beefed up ensemble of Breaking Dawn - Part 2 and thanks to a wildly funny cast it never feels like pointless deviation. Along with the usual suspects Lee Pace adds swagger to the series as a grungy alt-rock vampire Noel Fisher appears as a hilarious over-the-top battle-ready Russian coven member and Michael Sheen returns has Volturi head honcho Aro and steels the show. Flamboyant diabolical and a steady stream of maniacal laughter Sheen owns Condon's high camp vision for Twilight and he lights up the screen. There are a few throw away nations of vampires — the oddly stereotypical Egyptian and Amazonians sects are there mostly there to off-set the extreme whiteness — but the actors involved bring liveliness to a franchise known for being soulless. Even Stewart Pattinson and Taylor Lautner give personal bests in this installment — a scene between Bella and her dad Charlie (Billy Burke) is genuinely heartfelt while Jacob's overprotective hero schtick finally lands.
Whereas Breaking Dawn - Part 1 stuck mostly to the personal story relying on the intimate moments as Bella and Edward took the big plunge into marriage and sex Part 2 paints with broader strokes and Condon has a ball. Delving into the history of the vampires and the vampire world outside Forks is Pandora's Box for the director. One scene where we learn why kids scare the heck of the Volturi captures a scope of medieval epics — along with the bloodshed. Twilight might be known for its sexual moments but Breaking Dawn - Part 2 will go down for its abundance of decapitations. The big set piece in the finale is something to behold both in the craftsmanship of the spectacle and in its bizarre nature.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 had the audience hooting hollering and even gasping as it twisted and turned to the final moments. There's little doubt that even the biggest naysayer of the franchise would do the same. No irony here: the conclusion of Twilight is a blast.
Sorry, everyone, but Tuesday night the only thing you will be allowed to watch on television is the results of the presidential election as they slowly roll in from across this great nation of ours. Yes, that means field reporting, concession speeches, red and blue states on a big old poster behind the anchor desk, and pundits turning red in their faces when the races don't go their way.
Even if you can't tell the difference between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney and a donkey and an elephant fighting over pizza and burritos, you're going to have to watch something. But what? Here are all your major choices, broken down by what to expect and what is the best for you. If you're going to be stuck with journalists, you might as well find some that you like.
Talent: Diane Sawyer, George (copy, paste) Stephanopoulos, Barbara Walters, and Katie Couric
Pros: Sawyer and Stephanopoulos have both actually worked in the White House, so that is some real K Street cred right there. With Walters and Kouric they'll have a nice balance of hard and soft news. Also, they have a lot of female reporters. It's almost as if they had a binder, and it was full of women, and that's who they put on the show.
Cons: Walters and Kouric have devolved into daytime chatterers. They might not be able to deliver the gravitas an occasion like this merits. And seriously, can't we just put Barbara Walters on Social Security already and make her give up a place at the anchor desk? Oh, wait, not if Mitt Romney wins and there is no more Social Security. Never mind.
Watch This If...: You think The View is hard-hitting journalism.
Talent: Scott Pelley, Bob Schieffer, Norah O'Donnell, John Dickerson
Pros: Bob Schieffer moderated one of the debates, so he might have some insights. The network will be using virtual reality models to display the election results. I don't know what that means, but "virtual reality" always sounds like the future.
Cons: What is a Scott Pelley? Who are these people?
Watch This If...: You are old and can't find NCIS.
Talent: Brian Williams, Tom Brokaw, David Gregory, Savannah Guthrie, Andrea Mitchell, Tamron Hall
Pros: Everyone will be reporting from a place called Democracy Plaza, which sounds like what the inside of a voting booth should be like. Either that or a politics-themed restaurant in Times Square. There will be a lot of really deep voices, so your dog won't be able to hear a thing. It's also the only major network to bring back a returning anchor, so thanks, Brokaw. Oh, and have you seen Brian Williams on 30 Rock? He brings the funny.
Cons: Tamron Hall will be reporting from the Rockefeller Center Ice Rink. We are already embarrassed for her. Also, no one likes Savannah Guthrie (especially Ann Curry).
Watch This If...: You want to be like the cast of Girls.
Talent: Bill O'Reilly, Greta Van Susteren, Brit Hume, Chris Wallace, Sarah Palin, Karl Rove
Pros: If Mitt Romney loses, they'll freak out so bad it will look like a million nervous breakdowns at once.They're the only ones to have a former candidate in the newsroom.
Cons: That candidate is Sarah Palin. Also, Karl Rove, a lugey of human phlegm that came to life, will share his evil ways. That could be insightful but is also like making out with Emperor Palpatine. And, just like MSNBC, this broadcast has a political bias. Unlike MSNBC, they're not bothered by those little things called facts.
Watch This If...: You hate truth, liberty, and the American way.
Talent: Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, Candy Crowley, Erin Burnett, Paul Begala, James Carville, Alex Castellanos, Ari Fleischer, Margaret Hoover, Van Jones, Roland Martin and Ana Navarro. Is there anyone they didn't hire?
Pros: Since it's a news network, you can watch it all darn day so you can get all the sweet political news you need to stay alive. Also, it tries to be fair and balanced, which is nice. You never know when Cooper is going to lapse into a fit of the giggles and Begala and Carville are the funniest talking heads in all of punditville.
Cons: Who wants their news balanced? Tell me what to think, news! I'm stupid and need some opinions. Also, remember last election when Wolf Blitzer talked to a hologram. Yeah, that's gone. I already miss it.
Watch This If...: Like Anderson, you'd rather be watching Real Housewives.
Talent: Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, Rev. Al Sharpton, Lawrence O'Donnell, Ed Schultz, Steve Schmidt
Pros: If there was ever a pro, it's Rev. Al Sharpton. If Obama wins, he'll go crazy. If Romney wins, he'll go double crazy. Stay tuned! Also, Matthews will yell and Maddow will say lots of smart and vaguely mean things that are totally right.
Cons: There doesn't seem to be any virtual reality, holograms, reincarnated robots of William Taft, or anything. Where are the bells and whistles?
Watch This If...: You wear glasses.
Pros: Well, it's unfiltered, unbiased coverage of the democratic process.
Cons: That sounds more dry and boring than a dump truck full of Shredded Wheat.
Watch This If...: You hate fun.
Talent: Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert
Pros: Screw taping, these guys are going live! That means the funny is going to be fast, furious, and possibly NSFW (damn those seven-second delays). Also, Colbert's half hour is called Election 2012: A Nation Votes, Ohio Decides; The Re-Presidenting of America: Who Will Replace Obama? ‘012!. Yup, I'd watch that. Oh, and he'll have Andrew Sullivan too.
Cons: Their coverage starts at 11 PM, so you have nothing to watch until then. But, then again, if you have a life outside of watching boring political reporting on TV, then that is actually a pro. They each only get 30 minutes. Boo!
Watch This If...: You think The Onion is real.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
[Photo Credit: Getty Images (2), Comedy Central]
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The God of Legion secular Hollywood’s latest Biblically-inspired action flick is old-school an angry spiteful Almighty with a penchant for Old Testament theatrics. Fed up with humanity’s decadent warmongering ways He’s decided to pull the plug on the whole crazy experiment and start over from scratch.
Fortunately for us the God of Legion is also a rather lazy fellow. Instead of doing the apocalyptic work himself and wiping us out with a giant flood which worked perfectly well last time He opts to delegate the task to His army of angels — a questionable strategy that starts to fall apart when the archangel charged with leading the planned extermination Michael (Paul Bettany) refuses to comply.
Michael who unlike his boss still harbors affection for our sorry species abandons his post and descends to earth where inside the swollen belly of Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) an unwed mother-to-be working as a waitress in an out-of-the-way diner sits humanity’s lone hope for survival. Why is this particular baby so important? Is it the one destined to lead us to victory over Skynet? Heaven knows — Legion reveals little details its script devoid of actual scripture. What is clear is that God’s celestial hitmen want the kid whacked before it’s born.
But Michael won’t let humanity fall without a fight. Armed with a Waco-sized arsenal of assault weapons he hunkers down with the diner’s patrons a largely superfluous collection of thinly-sketched caricatures from various demographic groups led by Dennis Quaid as the diner’s grizzled owner Tyrese Gibson as a hip-hop hustler and Lucas Black as a simple-minded country boy.
Together they mount a heroic final stand against hordes of angels who’ve taken possession of “weak-willed” humans turning kindly old grandmas and mild-mannered ice cream vendors into snarling ravenous foul-mouthed beasts. They descend upon the ramshackle diner in a series of full-frontal assaults commanded by the archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) the George Pickett of End of Days generals.
Beneath its superficial religious facade Legion is really just a run-of-the-mill zombie flick a Biblical I Am Legend. Bettany an actor accustomed to smaller dramatic roles in films like A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code looks perfectly at ease in his first major action role wielding machine guns and bowie knives with equal aplomb. Conversely first-time director Scott Stewart a former visual effects artist does little to prove himself worthy of such a promotion serving up some impressive CGI work but not much else worthy of note.