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The pressure's on for "Early Show"'s Bryant Gumble

Too Late for the "Early Show?"

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CBS's new "Early Show" isn't about Jane Clayson, the co-host who's worked in network TV news for all of about three years now.

And it's not about veteran weatherman Mark McEwen, who's a holdover from the CBS morning program's unsuccessful incarnations.

Nor is it about senior executive producer Steve Friedman, who was the man behind NBC's "Today" from 1979 to 1987 and again earlier in this decade.

Nope. CBS's "Early Show" is all about Bryant Gumble. The pressure's all on him.

After 15 years at "Today," and a career before that in local and network sportscasting that stretched all the way back to the early '70s at KNBC in L.A. (where Friedman was a news producer), Gumble ditched NBC at contract time and moved over to CBS with the promise of a prime-time magazine program.

Trouble was, "Public Eye" flopped, and Gumble got a taste of what it's like to fail. And with "Early Show" doing as poorly as it is, it looks like he's about to bomb again.

Well don't feel too bad, Bryant. CBS has been having problems in the morning since way back in the 1950s, when both Walter Cronkite and Jack Paar tried their hand at it. (Only Captain Kangaroo has succeeded in the morning slot for CBS, but his specialty wasn't news.)

Despite its new high-powered hosts and its window-on-the-world set in the GM building on Fifth Avenue across from the Plaza Hotel, the "Early Show" is still foundering, with no indications it'll be able to play in the same arena with ABC and NBC. Clayson hasn't developed any personality to speak of, McEwen is merely the same old affable weatherman, and Gumble seems to have lost some of his edge, the cockiness that made "Today" viewers either love him (most of them) or hate him.

Perhaps the saddest moment in Gumble's first few weeks on his new show was understandable. It was 8:14 a.m. on Nov. 5, and time for Gumble to lead into a commercial break.

"We'll be right back. This is 'Today' ... uh ... I'm sorry. This is the 'Early Show' on CBS."

When things get tough and you're rattled, old habits die

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