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TV's royal wedding coverage overstayed its welcome

Let the cynics and naysayers grouse about all the news stories that briefly went uncovered Friday morning as the world's media focused on the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Turns out, the 8,000 journalists gathered in London to document the next generation of British royalty offered fairly reasonable, mostly gaffe-free performances, which communicated the majesty of the moment with a few necessary detours into gossip and fashion talk.

Until the ceremony ended.

Once the happy couple shared their public kiss — two of them, in fact, which Today show anchor Meredith Vieira unfortunately referred to as the "money shot" — the TV networks still covering the event descended into a morass of saccharine-sweet observations, inane interviews and space-gobbling fashion "analysis," living down to some critics' worst expectations.

Most TV outlets devoted to the event were into their continuous coverage efforts by 4 a.m. local time. One notable exception: CBS, which chose to air a rebroadcast of the 1981 wedding of Prince William's parents, Prince Charles and Lady Diana, and made it look like they couldn't convince departing anchor Katie Couric to get out of bed soon enough to start with everyone else.

CNN anchor Piers Morgan emerged as an early favorite, calling one wedding guest a notorious partier while noting that another male dignitary, arriving with a beautiful woman in a low-cut dress, was smiling so much because he was lucky to get an invitation. That's what happens when you hire a veteran of Britain's notorious Fleet Street tabloid newspaper industry as your color commentator.

At times, the coverage unfolded a little like a battle between cheeky British analysts, with MSNBC anchor Martin Bashir on NBC and Newsweek/Daily Beast editor Tina Brown, who called the uninvited, scandal-plagued ex-Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson a "hopeless wreck," on ABC.

CBS may have struggled the most, starting late from a perch that was so close to the bells at Westminster Abbey that anchor Couric and her guests had to speak loudly to be heard over the din.

They also seemed to start talking sooner than many other TV outlets during the actual ceremony, adding extra chatter at times when other channels let the hymns and the moment play out with little narration.

The typical collection of news channels and networks was augmented this time around with some new coverage competitors: lifestyle cable channel TLC and celebrity-focused E! entertainment channel.

When Middleton clambered into her car, TLC slowed down the video for fashion analysts who dissected the images like the Zapruder film.

On E!, rumors that Alexander McQueen designer Sarah Burton was in the area received levels of attention that CNN usually reserves for Middle East coverage, and a countdown clock reminded us that more than 2 million Twitter messages went out by the ceremony's end.

I half expected Joan Rivers to pop up on the red carpet leading into the abbey to ask the bride, "WHO are you wearing?" (Burton, as it turns out, confirmed by press materials e-mailed impressively to media the second Middleton appeared in public).

But the high definition video of the actual wedding, provided by a common pool of cameras, was stately and breathtaking, capturing the majesty of the occasion with sweeping visuals. As the ceremony unfolded, most broadcasters wisely stayed silent, allowing the simple program to speak for itself.

TV's royal wedding coverage overstayed its welcome 04/29/11 [Last modified: Friday, April 29, 2011 10:38pm]
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