Baldwin ‘Rust’ Interview Rates Poorly; 5 Reasons Audience Tuned Out

Last night, ABC’s lead Washington anchor and co-host of Good Morning America, George Stephanopoulos, landed (and ABC aired) the first Alec Baldwin interview, since the tragic shooting that occurred on his film set, Rust, which resulted in the death of the film’s cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and an injury to the director, Joel Souza.

Stephanopoulos, once a political whiz kid who was instrumental in getting Bill Clinton elected to president (twice), has evolved into a winning interviewer and news moderator, equally comfortable with high level politicians as he is with Hollywood’s elite.

ABC heavily promoted the one hour special event, teasing moments inquiring minds were certainly curious about:

Did Baldwin feel guilt over what happened?

Baldwin claimed to not feel guilt because he claims to have done nothing wrong. He said if he felt he was wrong and responsible, he very well might’ve killed himself by now.

Did Baldwin pull the trigger of the weapon?

Probably the most surprising moment of the exchange was when Baldwin shared that he never pulled an actual trigger. Even the First Assistant Director, Dave Halls, confirms as a witness that Baldwin never literally discharged the weapon. The explosion, according to Baldwin, occurred after the “hammer” of the weapon was released, not the trigger pulled.


Did Baldwin feel he would be criminally prosecuted?

Baldwin believes he will not be prosecuted. He felt if that was a possibility, he would’ve learned that news from New Mexico authorities by now (the location where Rust was in production and the tragedy occurred.)

By most journalistic measures, the interview was a success.

Stephanopoulos left no stone unturned, and in interviewing the frequently emotional movie star, Stephanopoulos showed patience and focus, which brought out raw truths that Baldwin seemed to land on in real time over the course of their conversation.  

For viewers eager to hear Baldwin’s side of the story, they got a full telling and then some.

Why then, did the special rank fourth among the major networks?

Here are 5 Key Reasons that help explain the lack of interest:

1.    It’s too soon.

Given that no charges have yet been brought, and that the incident happened less than two months ago — October 21st, to be exact — conventional wisdom dictates that not enough is known and it’s simply too soon to have a full account of what really happened that day.

2.    Baldwin’s a polarizing figure.

Baldwin has a long history of controversy in both his personal and professional life. Whether publicly humiliating and verbally abusing his daughter Ireland over a telephone voicemail, or routinely getting in physical altercations with paparazzi, Baldwin attracts headlines, but often for the wrong reasons. This tragedy counts as one more incident in a long line of deeply regrettable behavior by the A-list star. Add to that his political views, and scathing satirical portrayal of Donald Trump on SNL, and you’ve got a talent that at least half the country may openly despise.

3.    This was just one side of a much bigger, evolving story.

As interesting as it was to learn Baldwin’s side of things, it was only his side. A more satisfying experience would’ve been to hear from others on the set, including the surviving husband of the deceased, as well as the director who was injured. The utterly one-sided nature of the special took on the momentum of a one hour-long mea culpa, however well-intentioned, and that’s a bridge too far for many to endure.

4.    Stephanopoulos is good, but he isn’t Oprah.

Network TV relies more and more on event interviews, live sports and reality shows to draw any audience whatsoever. Check Nielsen and you’ll discover that no network scripted series has cracked the top 10 shows in months, if not longer. While the subject of the interview matters – whether it’s Harry and Meghan of Sussex, or Adele revealing a new album and concert – we see that the interviewer matters just as well. Stephanopoulos did a strong job as a journalist, but does he have that same “effervescence” that Barbara Walters originated, and Oprah now owns? Based on last night’s ratings, Oprah’s crown appears intact and unchallenged.

5.    It’s a tragic, awful story and easily avoidable.

Finally, and most importantly, last night was ultimately an accounting of a singular moment with enormously tragic consequences, one more terrible than the next.

With the rise of a new variant of the corona-virus and an economy swerving towards sky-rocketing prices and choking inflation, many might prefer an hour of escapism with Harry and Meghan, or a royal talent like Adele, versus a meditation on life-or-death mistakes, shared by a sincerely contrite but always divisive actor.

The controversy around the special took new life today, when the D.A. from New Mexico had to make a statement saying that Baldwin is in fact still a suspect and hasn’t been cleared yet of criminal charges.

What a nightmare, and what a crushing disappointment for ABC.

The Tycoon Herald