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Achor John McCaa's successor takes a Twitter tumble after Sunday night's Oscar-cast


He wants to be taken seriously. If so, then John McCaa’s successor, Chris Lawrence, should have thought twice before donning a tux Sunday night for a gushy opening segment on Twitter reactions to the Oscars. It set the table for Sunday’s late night WFAA8 newscast while McCaa & co-anchor Cynthia Izaguirre sat nearby. Photo: Ed Bark

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Commercial breaks during Sunday night’s Oscars on ABC were loaded with promotions for what was supposed to be an immediately following full-hour “sneak preview” of Whiskey Cavalier, a new tongue-in-cheek spy series.

But in D-FW, affiliate station WFAA8 gummed up the network’s master plan by instead airing a local newscast that started at 10:25 p.m. and pushed Whiskey Cavalier’s start time to 10:57 p.m. Even more surprisingly, the news opened with incoming anchor Chris Lawrence gushily presiding over Twitter reaction to the Oscars.

Lawrence, who will be succeeding longstanding anchor John McCaa on Monday, March 4th, has been heavily promoted during a ratings “sweeps” month that has doubled as a long goodbye for McCaa after his 35-year career at WFAA8. This was Lawrence’s first time to lead off a newscast, though. And it proved to be problematic at best for a guy whose impressively serious news credentials were lauded in a November publicity release announcing his hiring.

Still, what Lawrence did on Sunday night is something McCaa never did and emphatically never would do on WFAA8. He’s been a case study in sobriety during his distinguished, trailblazing tenure, leaving sports anchor Dale Hansen and weathercaster Pete Delkus to do most of the clowning.

This isn’t to say that Lawrence should be a McCaa clone. He’ll have his own style, and it’s bound to be considerably looser than McCaa’s. But why would station management turn him into something of a circus act before he even officially starts?

Lawrence began by noting Spike Lee’s politically charged acceptance speech after winning his first Oscar. Some “loved” it, others were turned off, he said generically before quickly turning to one of the featured events of the night. Namely, Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga performing the Oscar-nominated (and eventually Oscar-winning) “Shallow” from their remake of A Star Is Born. Lawrence initially stood in front of an official ABC News tweet (@ABC) lauding their duet.

”You can see. I mean, they are into it,” Lawrence trilled. “They got really, really emotional. Everybody in our news room was thinking like, ‘Hey, what’s goin’ on here?’ And in fact, Leanne writes (on Twitter), ‘I’m not the only one who thinks Lady Gaga got caught up in the moment and leaned in to kiss #BradleyCooper right.”

Well, there was no evidence of that during their performance, and the excitable Leanne probably meant to put a question mark after “right” (as well as a comma after Cooper).

Lawrence then leaned in hard: “Uh, Leanne, he is not married but has a partner and a very beautiful one at that. And they’ve got a little girl as well.”

McCaa, who was sitting nearby at the anchor desk with Cynthia Izaguirre, could not be seen reacting to any of this. So one can only imagine. But it didn’t get any better.

Lawrence next displayed a Tweet saying, “Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and @MayaRudolph BROUGHT IT! #TheOscars are LIVE now on ABC!” Note that this little dollop also is from ABC’s official Twitter feed and not from an actual WFAA8 viewer. Lawrence ran with it anyway: “A lot of people saying, ‘Look, the producers need to be on the phone with them right now, getting them locked for next year’s show.’ ” Except that he didn’t show any tweets other than the one generated by ABC itself.

Lawrence wound up by giving his “best supporting an actor” Oscar to “my man, Chris Evans.” Seated near Regina King, he helped her to the stage after she was announced as the winner of the best supporting actress trophy for If Beale Street Could Talk.

“My man, Captain America!” Lawrence enthused. “Showing us all chivalry is not dead.”

Hopefully this was an aberration, although WFAA8 management’s obsession with social media engagement, spiked by its corporate owner TEGNA, could signal a sea change between what Lawrence is willing to do -- and what McCaa clearly wasn’t.

To his credit, Lawrence has directly addressed some of his critics on social media, including even your friendly content provider. “I just think folks who stayed up till 10:20 were clearly into the Oscars,” he tweeted Monday afternoon. “Having watched the news here, last night was probably the exception not the rule.”

McCaa has just five days left before he signs off on Friday, March 1st. The baton then goes to Chris Lawrence. It’s hoped he won’t drop it, although management could force his hand.

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net