Television: Viewpoints: Stumbling Start

"Good morning, this is AM America," beamed Host Bill Beutel. Chirped Hostess Stephanie Edwards a second later: "This moment of tension is brought to you by a lot of nice people." On that note, ABC's long-ballyhooed big show finally hit the air last week.

The tension was understandable. The network has invested 18 months of planning and $8 million in AM America, its first attempt to compete in TV's early morning reveille race against NBC's 23-year-old winner, Today, and the trailing but steady CBS Morning News. Unfortunately, AM America stumbled out of the starting gate and only slowly recovered after that.

The two-hour...

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