Megyn Kelly is "done with politics for now."
The host opened Monday's inaugural episode of Megyn Kelly Today, the 9 a.m. hour of NBC's Today show, with that declarative statement. She noted that politics are everywhere, infused into every facet of our lives, and her new morning show would be far more focused on "fun."
It was a bit of necessary rebranding for the former Fox News anchor, who made her name diving into politics headfirst on the cable news channel, to enter the more lifestyle-focus world of morning TV.
Minus politics, Monday's premiere was a blend of personal stories from Kelly, an audience Q&A, celebrity interviews and an "inspirational" field piece to close out the hour.
The combination is tricky, and the first episode was a bit awkward. Like any new series, Megyn has some growing pains, and that was apparent in missed cues, clumsy seating arrangements and some stiffness from Kelly, who, whether because of nervousness or her attempts to develop a new tone, speaks with a strange cadence.
And even an hour of The Today Show cannot divorce itself from politics entirely. Her first guests were the cast and creators of NBC's returning Will & Grace, which, as Kelly repeatedly explained, was a groundbreaking show for LGBTQ representation on television. Kelly focused on the impact the series had on that community, except she only mentioned "gays and lesbians," and, in an ill-timed joke that didn't land, asked a superfan in the audience, "Is it true you became a lawyer and gay because of Will & Grace"?
Kelly also devoted a segment to an elderly nun working against gun violence on the south side of Chicago, an area that Kelly called "like a war zone." Chicago's gun violence is another issue that's been politicized, particularly by President Trump, but her focus is on the feel-good aspect of the nun's "Peace Garden," and her efforts to bring the mothers of violence victims and perpetrators together. While that serves its own purpose, it doesn't make the issue entirely apolitical.
That, perhaps, is the biggest hurdle. She can say that she's done with politics, but the subject is (by her own admission) everywhere, and side-stepping it won't make it go away. The series will get better at staging and timing as it goes on, but a purpose is something harder to refine.
There's a difference between choosing to focus on lifestyle and entertainment over political news, and ignoring the fact that politics exist in everyday issues. Megyn Kelly Today would do well to strike a better balance.
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