Somewhere right now, Peter Jennings is asleep. Or, at least, I hope so. After anchoring almost 24 hours straight of ABC's "millennium" coverage, the man at least deserves a nap. The massive round-the-clock coverage by ABC and their competitors may have helped bring the world together, but some of the coverage was positively surreal -- especially the part after midnight on the East Coast. Here then are some moments from the wee hours of the new year as seen on television.
12:30 a.m. Eastern Time -- Peter Jennings, who has been on the air since 4:50 a.m., still seems to be standing, though he is looking a bit dazed. Will he make it, I wonder. While earlier he was dressed all proper like an anchorman should, he has now thrown caution to the wind and lost the tie. Displaying the first signs of fatigue, he also refers to "my colleague and competitor Tom Brokaw of NBC." Is Peter so tired that he can't think of anything to say and must instead mention Tom Brokaw? It is not a good omen.
12:47 -- Over on NBC, Mike Jensen takes twenty bucks out of an ATM. Live! The good news is that it works; there are no Y2K glitches at all. The bad news is that the camera is too far away for us to see his pin number.
12:50 -- For some reason, Peter Jennings is about to interview Alan Alda on the phone as part of their special "Millennium phone call" feature. Before doing this, though, Peter takes a moment to talk about Sean Connery. It turns out that he had tried to interview Connery earlier in the day, but the logistics just didn't work out. The scary thing is that Peter now decides to do a very brief Sean Connery impression. Peter is obviously getting a bit punchy.
1:20 -- CNN has a report from the Y2K control center in Colorado. Everything is running smoothly, but "we've seen our first hiccup," the reporter tells us. Apparently, about a half dozen weather stations in Iowa are not reporting the weather to the national system. "It seems that the stations are recording the data correctly. They're just not sending it out," he tells us.
The Iowa weather stations are down! The Iowa weather stations are down! Y2K has struck, and I suddenly feel relieved to have bought that extra gallon of water earlier in the day.
I start to think that CNN is making all this up, just so they will have something to report. A few minutes later, Katie Couric does a similar report on NBC and exclaims, "This is really boring!" Y2K is quickly becoming the big non-event of the evening. Earlier, even before midnight, there was a Reuters article entitled "US defends Y2K spending." Later, the headlines will read, "Y2K bug could strike later in the year."
1:59 -- ABC's coverage of midnight in Denver features a Neil Diamond concert. Well, I may be lame for staying home on New Year's, but hey, I think to myself, at least I'm not at a Neil Diamond concert. I can only stand this for about sixty seconds, but it's particularly amusing when Neil starts counting down to the New Year. "Five, four, three," he yells out, but in the background there is a big screen that says, "Nine, eight, seven." All the special effects go off when Neil gets to zero, even though in the background the countdown is only on four.
2:50 -- The ABC studio is full of musicians. A barbershop quartet combines with several street performers to sing "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." About one of these groups, Peter tells us proudly, "I think we originally found them in Penn Station." This is getting very bizarre indeed. I suddenly have this image of Peter Jennings wandering about the New York subway system in his spare time auditioning street performers. It is not helping me get to sleep.
3:25 -- At last, I'm mostly asleep, but I'm pretty sure a rather dazed Peter Jennings has just introduced a performance by the rock band Phish. (Incidentally, that last sentence is a historic one -- the first and probably last time that the name "Peter Jennings" and the word "Phish" will ever appear in the same sentence.) After Phish do their thing, Peter seems as happy as I have ever seen him. He tells us gleefully, "They began seventeen years ago in Vermont, and now they have fans who in many ways have the same dedication as fans of the Grateful Dead once did."
I'm still not sure, but I think I have just seen Peter Jennings wax romantic about Phish. Yep, it's definitely time to turn off the TV and go to sleep.
|Copyright 2000 by Joe Lavin
Joe Lavin's Humor Column is published every Tuesday at: http://joelavin.com
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Submitted By: Joe Lavin
Jan 19, 2000 12:53