Higgins & Bankert debut in hopes of someday waking up CBS11's snoring early morning ratings
06/25/12 12:58 PM
By ED BARK
CBS11's latest restart of its early morning news dawned brightly Monday with the first pairing of Brendan Higgins and Adrienne Bankert in place of previous anchors Lisa Pineiro and Keith Garvin.
Their most significant, scene-setting exchange came in the opening minute of a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call.
"We want to thank you for joining the new CBS news(?)" Bankert said in the form of a question.
"As we begin a news revolution here at CBS11," Higgins rejoined to a few off-camera chortles.
"I like that," said Bankert. "Are you going to get a bumper sticker?"
"An avalance o' news. That's what we're gonna do here," Higgins promised.
"The one-liners will keep coming with Brendan Higgins," Bankert assured.
"That's right," her new on-air mate agreed. "Actually, yeah, we just want you to hang out with us and chill a little bit in the morning. And we are happy to be here with you."
Then it was on to the news, with neither anchor ever elaborating on just where they came from.
Higgins, his hair still gamely blonde, remains a known quantity to many D-FW viewers as the former co-anchor of NBC5's early morning show. He worked that shift for six years before leaving in January 2010 over a contract disagreement.
Bankert, who immediately demonstrated an ability to go with Higgins' flow, is already something of a revelation. Smooth, well-spoken and undeniably very nice to look at, Bankert arrived from NBC affiliate KCRA-TV in Sacramento, where she had worked dawn patrol hours for the past eight years.
First impressions can be misleading. But Bankert already looks as though she'll be better at parrying Higgins' playful thrusts than Fox4's Lauren Przybyl is or ever has been opposite Tim Ryan, the oft-snarky dean of D-FW morning TV.
Higgins' best quip came just before the 5 a.m. segment of the show. Sports anchor Bill Jones wrapped up his pre-recorded digest by grandly welcoming the two newcomers on behalf of "the entire CBS11 sports crew."
"Oh, it's so nice of him," Bankert said. Higgins then added, "It even seemed warm on tape."
"Will you stop!?" Bankert retorted agreeably.
Meanwhile, Higgins' eyebrows were a movable feast of string puppet-ish ups and downs while Bankert's stayed firmly in place. Although she looks appreciably younger than him, Bankert may well emerge as the steadying hand of this broadcast.
Still, she wants his quips to keep on coming, as does station management. Comedy has become a very important early morning ingredient in recent months. So Bankert told Higgins in the 6 a.m. hour that she couldn't wait for "more incredible one-liners" from him. "You're amazing."
The actual news content still needs ample work. CBS11 had only reporter Susy Solis in the field Monday morning for repeated re-tellings of the missing 47-year-old Plano woman who eventually turned up dehydrated and incoherent in a D-FW Airport rest room. Otherwise the only live segment was a 6:15 a.m. phone interview with ERCOT spokeswoman Robbie Searcy, who talked about power demands brought on by the first wave of 100-degree temperatures this summer.
CBS11 also showed news director Adrienne Roark's blurry long-distance video from a weekend Coldplay concert in Dallas. Higgins said he likewise attended but Bankert opted out in order to keep her early-to-bed sleeping schedule in play. What's sorely needed, though, is more reporters in the field for a greater sense of the here and now. In comparison, NBC5 has a battalion of eager young troops out and about in search of something to show and tell.
Down the homestretch of Monday's two-and-a-half-hour opener, Higgins had some suitably sarcastic fun with a new Facebook app called "Find Friends Nearby." Well, someone had to say it sounds ridiculous. And Higgins did so with numerous snide repetitions of the generic title while Bankert ably joined in.
Higgins does have a Facebook page, but is still a Twitter tenderfoot, he admitted. His last words before signing off: "I'm gonna learn the tweet thing."
For the record, Higgins still doesn't have a Twitter account. Bankert does, but as of this writing has a smallish crowd of 466 followers.
"Yo! Welcome to the morning news...where headlines and some hilarity ensue...mostly from #BrendanCBS11 :)," she tweeted during a commercial break Monday.
Well, it's a start. CBS11 still has miles and miles to go before it can see its shadow in the early mornings. But Higgins and Bankert look as though they'll give it a game go. For starters, they played pretty well together.