January 07, 1999 at 05:00 AM EST

Wake Up, America

ABC is very excited that Diane Sawyer and Charlie Gibson are stopping by to rescue “Good Morning America” from the ratings basement. I am very excited that ABC is excited, although I am less excited about the arrival of Sawyer and Gibson — and not because I don’t think they’re fine TV hosts. They are. I love when Charlie acts all uncle-y, and when Diane tilts her head coquettishly while playing patty-cake with Ken Starr.

I just don’t see where substituting one pair of anchors for another will make much difference in the popularity of a show the high point of which is the five-day local weather report. Ginger Spice and Walter Cronkite could be filling in for all I know, and I’d still be, like, DO I NEED AN UMBRELLA? and HAS THE MILK IN THE FRIDGE GONE BAD? and WHAT INFURIATING STUPIDITY HAS TRENT LOTT UTTERED TODAY?

Oh, I have a vague sense of the difference between Katie and Paula and Diane, a dim appreciation of the bragging rights involved in being the first of the Big Three to put Hillary Clinton or John Travolta in the guest chair. But unless ABC does something really radical — like, conduct all celebrity interviews in hot tubs, or ditch all segments about cute ways to get kids to write thank-you notes to Granny, or enliven the screen with Pop-Up Video-type factoids (“Charlie Gibson isn’t wearing any socks!”), then what’s the dif? Ratings rise and ratings fall. ABC is up and ABC is down, not because Joan Lunden and Charlie Gibson were like the parents in “The Wonder Years,” but because viewer tastes are about as constant as Dennis Rodman’s hair color: Every once in awhile we just want a change. Some mornings we just want “Sesame Street.”

Every day, though, I want the temperature and the wind-chill factor. Which is why all of Diane and Charlie’s charms will never match those of the Weather Channel — my morning fix while I’m waiting for the coffee to drip, having wisely investigated the milk-in-fridge situation in advance.

What are you watching in the morning, and why?

Steven Zaillian
Touchstone Pictures
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