It’s not easy to be publicly fired. Just ask Kevin Newman, the “forgotten man” of “Good Morning America,” who says it took years for him to recover psychologically from his sudden firing from the show in 1999.
You can be forgiven for not remembering Newman: His stint as a co-host (with Lisa McRee) on “GMA” for nine months isn’t even included in ABC’s official history of its morning show, writes Newman in a reminiscence about his “GMA” experiences in Macleans magazine, the Canadian newsweekly. (Newman is a native of Toronto.)
“It took me years to repair what nine months as ‘GMA’s’ male co-host did to my confidence and career,” writes Newman, who details how he and McRee were called upon to salvage the sinking “GMA” in 1998, only to be dropped less than a year later. They were replaced by Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer. Nine months before, Newman had actually replaced Gibson, who returned to replace Newman.
The occasion for Newman’s guest-piece in Macleans was this past fall’s movie about morning TV –- “Morning Glory” –- starring Rachel McAdams as a plucky young morning-show producer and Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton as the show’s veteran co-hosts whose popularity was in decline. Newman had recently seen the movie and apparently felt moved to compare the movie to his own real-life experiences.
“True to [the movie], the producers [at “GMA”] were also convinced the key to a ratings turnaround was to make the show ‘fluffier,’” he writes. “After several months of recipes, ﬁtness tips, and how-to segments, they abruptly declared ‘GMA’ ‘would do more hard news now.’”
The similarities didn’t end there. “There is a scene in the movie when Rachel McAdams is called on the carpet by the president of the division, played by Jeff Goldblum,” writes Newman. “Where he had been fun and welcoming nine months earlier, now he was icy and threatening. That scene cut pretty close to my truth.” The real-life ABC News president who hired and fired Newman was David Westin, who announced last September he’s leaving ABC at the end of the year (next week).
Not in the movie: Being left out of ABC’s own accounting of the show’s history, like something “official” histories used to do in the old Soviet Union. “When ‘GMA’ celebrated its 35th anniversary last year, Lisa and I were nowhere to be found in its official history,” Newman writes. “We never happened.”
This magazine piece is a very interesting look at the inner workings of a network TV show. Evidently, there’s as much heartache as there is glamour in the TV business.