Andy Rooney: The American icon's last kvetch [The conversation]
CBS announced Tuesday that 92-year-old weekly commentator Andy Rooney would deliver his last kvetch on Sunday's "60 Minutes." It will mark his 1,097th essay for the program and the end of a tradition that began in 1978. Love him or not -- and the reaction to the news has certainly been mixed -- there's no denying that Rooney is an American icon and an indelible part of our culture. His absence will be felt.
A great American writer
For all of his achievements in the field of broadcast journalism, for all of the face time he earned on the most important news show in the history of television, Andy Rooney at heart is a great writer. Pointed. Concise. Revealing. And like many good war reporters, usually free of flowery prose. Years ago, when I struck up a friendship with him, I would send him my columns seeking his counsel. He would invariably tell me what I knew in my heart to be true -- then and now. "Too many words," Andy Rooney would say to me, over and over again. "Too many words."
More than anything else, Rooney is a writer, and a good one. He didn't become a pop culture icon because of his good looks or charming personality. He did it by expressing himself clearly and concisely, in language that connected with readers and viewers. He writes in the spare, mostly adjective-free style that was fashionable in the post-Hemingway era, and that you had to master if you wanted a job in newspapers. It's a style that's rarely seen today except in crime novels and certain big-city tabloids.
A part of our lives
Did you ever notice how some people become more than just television personalities, and instead become more like guests in our homes?
--Brian Williams, NBC [via TV Newser]
He sometimes ran afoul
For many viewers, Mr. Rooney’s weekly observations on the foibles of life, commerce and politics became a favorite feature of the program, which was for years the most watched on television. But even as his popularity soared, he occasionally ran afoul of some groups, including Hispanics, American Indians and gays and lesbians, because of his comments.
He paved the way for bloggers
Rooney was nearly 60 when he began his commentaries, so he's going to be cemented in the minds of his audience as -- so the popular shorthand goes -- a kvetcher, a curmudgeon, a grouser, raising his prodigiously bushy eyebrows in skepticism at a foolish world. […]
And yet, weirdly, it's not a complete stretch to see TV's cranky old man as the prototype of the blogger, or at least a certain kind of observational blogger, employed as he was for so long to skewer, satirize and give voice to gripes. His style ("Don't you hate when...") has been easy enough to spoof -- fair play, after all, for a guy whose meal ticket is making fun -- but it was also economical and distinctive in its voice.
He overstayed his welcome
I hope CBS takes full advantage of Rooney's overdue exit to bring in someone who has something interesting and topical to say. I'd love to see an edgy, funny humorist like Andy Borowitz take over the slot. […]
I turn off "60 Minutes" at five minutes to 8 p.m. every Sunday night. I couldn't take it any more at one point.
Rooney's complaints turned me off. His essays on mundane aspects of life, that I never otherwise thought about, bored me stiff. For me, "A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney," his weekly segment, were a few too many.
Who will replace Rooney?
Brian Moylan for Andy Rooney's replacement? Sure, whatever. Nowhere to go but up.
Photo: Commentator Andy Rooney in his office at CBS in New York in June 1998. Credit: Jim Cooper / Associated Press