The Coronation – and the Not So Crowning Glory of US TV Coverage

Put a sock in it, ABC! In fact, put a draw full of socks in it! Actually, not all the Adidas socks in all the world could have shut up Michael Strahan and Deborah Roberts through their tortuous coverage of the Coronation.

When the orb was handed to King Charles during the regalia part of the proceedings, I thought there was only one place it deserved to go. In Michael Strahan’s mouth. If only there had been two orbs in the ABC studio.

Why were they incapable of shutting up, even during the most reverential parts of the proceedings? Although they continually reminded us of how moving it all was, the only thing moving at my place was my hand, reaching for the mute button every time they opened their mouths. Which was often. It was like Amazon’s Alexa, chipping in when you’re relaxing, listening to a Beethoven symphony, with a pointless interruption of, ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t understand that.’

The swords – also part of the regalia – said Michael, had special significance, one being for ‘the defense of the defenseless’. You mean like defenseless viewers, trying to protect themselves against this barrage of verbal diarrhea?

While the other channels kept quiet and allowed viewers to enjoy the ceremony, Mike and Deb carried on like America’s Got Talent judges. They were particularly vociferous during the Mass for Four Voices, quickly making it six – two of them very unwelcome.

‘It was just beautiful, said Deb, of the earlier choir. Really? How could you even hear it above your gabbling?

The pair even ruined the anointing. Do you know how hard it is to ruin an anointing? Only if you accidentally used the King’s oil, flown in from Jerusalem (a first, apparently) to fry your eggs that morning. But this pair managed it. The oil would be applied to the King’s forehead, wrists and chest, said Deb, adding what a ‘sacred’ moment it was. Not when somebody talks all over it, it isn’t.

There was more to come. The first time we would see Charles sitting in the special chair after being crowned was supposed to be another special moment. How did Dumb and Dumber wreck this? By telling us about a black cat that was found sitting on the chair during the Queen’s Coronation.

How they laughed. And laughed. In fact, they laughed so much at inappropriate moments, you could be forgiven for thinking you were at a pantomime. Had they yelled ‘He’s behind you!’ in unison, it wouldn’t have seemed out of place.

During the enthronement, the station cut to the miserable scene in Hyde Park of soaked loyal subjects staring at a screen. And then, heaven forbid, another two commentators chipped in outside.

The crowning glory of this disastrous broadcast was when Mike and Deb talked right through National Anthem at the end of the service. As the newly King Charles walked the length of Westminster Abbey, it was a solemn moment. Not for ABC. Where was a decent producer in all this, barking just one instruction: SHUT IT, PEOPLE!

Thankfully, CNN managed to stay quiet throughout the ceremony, but jeez, could they talk during the preamble. With coverage long before the other channels began coverage at 5am, they were up and about, commenting on famous arrivals and what everyone was wearing.

They had trouble identifying Katy Perry, though, who appeared to have been consumed by a cotton candy monster. Anxiously looking for her seat, she looked as if she had stolen the crown jewels and was looking for a quick getaway. CNN tried to cover up her confusion by drawing attention to ‘that wonderful pink hat.’ Really? She looked as if Miss Piggy had landed on her head.

There was an utterly bizarre interview with British TV presenter Trisha Goddard, who for some reason decided that this was the moment to draw attention to mental health. ‘Exciting’ as the occasion was, she felt she had to warn us about ‘People with mental health issues’, who might appear distressed. It wasn’t clear if she meant in the Abbey (of which there were probably many), or in general. Anyway, she just wanted to put our minds at rest about people who might seem upset and encouraged us to reach out to them. Aw, bless. Thank you for that patronizing bit of guidance. Utterly weird moment.

Was there no area of royal life CNN did not cover in the build-up to the big moment? Bidisha Mamata asked what this occasion meant to young people especially in the real world. ‘It’s all about music…poetry…art… she cooed.’ Sharon Carpenter spoke of the Americans’ love for Harry and Meghan (have you been living in a bunker, woman?)

And there were reminiscences aplenty – including one about 1953, when the Queen was ‘coronated.’ Yes, really! And this from a Brit, too.

Anchor and royal correspondent Max Foster was his usual statesmanlike self, and together with Anderson Cooper formed the best pairing of the day. However, network star Anderson Cooper, always so reliable on all matters American, appeared to be winging his way through it. Cooper didn’t even know that Prince George was in attendance, despite the lad being a page boy and standing right behind the King.

Max even told us that the royal coach had air con. With the ‘loyal’ subjects standing in the pouring rain and barely able to pay their electric bills at home, it served more as a reminder of the real Us and Them that lies at the heart of British society and not, as CBS’s royal commentator Wesley Kerr called, a ‘diverse, modern Britain.’

Kerr shot himself in the foot when he went on to celebrate the fact that there were ‘ordinary people’ at the congregation. ‘Ooh, thank you so much, yer majesty, I’m ’umbled beyond belief that you have bestowed such grace upon my ordinariness.’ You had to wonder if Mr Kerr has also been living in a bunker for the past 30 years when he talked about ‘the unity of modern Britain.’

Like I said. Us and Them.

The broadcast was also not helped by the disruptive ads – most notably a cut to a pregnancy testing kit ad just as the royal pair were emerging from the gold carriage at the Abbey. Is there something we should be told?

Maybe CBS  http://CBS.comover-compensated for their having missed the key moment with the cutaway, because there was considerable stress over Camilla struggling with her long train. You’re telling me. Not since Aladdin whisked Jasmine away on the Magic Carpet has so much negotiation with a bit of material been required.

They also reckoned that the expressions of both Charles and Camilla changed when the crowns were placed on their heads. Actually, Camilla looked as if she was trying to suppress laughter. Charles had grown so increasingly red throughout, he looked in danger of self-combusting and you had to wonder whether it might be better if everyone hung around for a bit and avoid having to RSVP to forthcoming funeral invitations.

Fox http://fox.comwent down the great royal sacrifice path, with Piers Morgan talking about how much the young Queen and the four-year-old Charles had given for their country instead of themselves. There was high praise for Camilla and a rather unnecessary mention of the late Princess Diana, who would have been ‘seething’ at seeing Camilla ascend the throne. It was all a bit thin on the ground, though, with more chat than significant information, and it felt more like a groveling tribute to the royals rather than an informative broadcast about a significant historical event.

Just when you thought the London weather had put the worst dampener on the proceedings, spare a thought for viewers of NBC, leading up to their 5am start. Showing a repeat of a program, it was all about the death of Prince Philip and the Queen.

‘Good evening, the Queen is dead!’ said a chirpy presenter, before showing clips of sobbing Brits (in the rain, of course).

When it came to the main event, NBC seemed behind everyone else, still lurking in an empty Abbey backwater while the other stations were showing the arrival of Prince Harry. How anyone didn’t fall asleep during the Archbishop of Canterbury’s sermon is anybody’s guess – Charles looked as if he had entered the first stages of rigor mortis. And how anyone’s bladder managed to withhold itself is a miracle. I used my bathroom six times – and that was just during the carriage ride to the Abbey.

All in all, it was a win for CNN and the ever-reliable Anderson Cooper (my TV crush. Yes, I know. I know. I won’t be ordering a crown anytime soon). During an informative and reverential, without being sycophantically so, broadcast, Christiane Amanpour concluded, at the end of the service, that, ‘No other country does this kind of ceremony.’ They do, actually. Plenty. Typical island mentality.

However, in the US, no other channel covers this kind of ceremony quite like CNN.