Most people engage in some sort of activity that energizes them each morning in preperation for the day ahead. Some drink coffee, others take a long shower, some hit the gym or go for a run. Until recently, my morning routine involved nothing more than some sit-ups and a bowl of cereal. But beginning about a month ago, I found myself spending each morning glued to the television between around 7:30 and 7:45. It's precisely 7:38 AM that has become my
"appointment television," the time during which I watch Good Day New York
religiously, five days a week. GDNY
, a locally-produced morning show that, somehow, manages to equal on a low-budgeted, local-news scale, the saccharine, lame quality of network competition Today
and Good Morning America
, wouldn't hold my interest for a moment if not for one reason, and one reason alone:
Penny Crone, Field Reporter.
Mention Crone's name to any New Yorker, and they'll likely respond with a lip bite and a smirk that says Best. Inside Joke. Ever.
A woman who, many would agree, seems to have been a fixture on New York's local news since its inception, Penny Crone is probably best known for her "commanding" presence. And by "commanding," I mean "loud, shrill, and butch." In the past few years, I'd initally caught some of her reports on both WLNY/Fox 5 and WCBS/2 and only marveled at how much she seemed to lack as a TV News reporter. Instead of reporting a story, Crone (whose audibly harsh surname is especially appropriate when followed by the dainty "Penny," a childish name reminiscent of a Cold War-era comic strip...or a pet guinea pig) somehow combined the chutzpah of an investigative reporter with the balls-to-the-wall, I'm-gonna-get-you-sucka
machismo of Bea Arthur in Maude
much includes the voice, too).
And therein lies the beauty of Penny Crone. In other words, watching Crone report a story was, in itself, a laugh riot as she managed to take the super-serious -- murders, criminals, and other dark tales of a nightswept gotham -- and unintentionally suck out the substance by diverting all attention to her quasi-threatening presence, her booming metallic bark, and a urine-colored buzzcut more dykey than a fanny pack sale in Northhampton.
But that was then
Somewhere along the way, perhaps as an incentive for dropping Crone from the network for about five minutes, Fox 5 made her the morning feature reporter on Good Day New York
(although I'm still not quite sure who profits here). What this means is that every morning at exactly 7:38, give or take a minute, all of New York has the chance to bear witness to some of the most actively uncalculated, mentally harrowing, mad
awkward moments on television. I <3 NY.
Since the first time I saw Penny Crone in a multi-colored nylon body suit and face paint, sadly attempting to flirt with a very, very
gay member of Cirque du Soleil, I was hooked. This was bad TV at its best, and likely too good to last.
I've since watched almost every day.
I've faithfully watched every morning as Penny rushes -- literally running
-- in and out of frame, trying to fill three minutes with far too much content while, for instance, visiting an Italian meat shop in Newark (and flirting with the elderly butcher and
his grandson, leaving both visibly confused), drumming with Senegalese tribes in a multicultural off-Broadway show (and flirting with a young African man who spoke little English, but was left visibly confused), and cheering with a Bergen County group of adolescent cheerleaders while donning fake pigtails and a white miniskirt (!), before getting in the act herself, only to be dropped to the floor by five girls (and, consequently, flashing us nothing we'd like to see, thus leaving us
confused and, perhaps, a tad nauseous).
Watching Penny Crone "in the field" is much more than watching a car crash in slow motion. What happens when Crone makes passes at a blank, rigid governmental dog-trainer before she reveals him to be a former CIA agent, is more like God shining His light on all His children to prove that misfortune comes in many, many
forms. Four seconds is a common time lapse in the world of Penny Crone -- four glorious units of silent situations during which nobody -- neither Penny, her interview subject(s), or the desk anchors with whom she communicates over a split screen (but whom she can never seem to actually hear
) -- seems certain as to who actually controls
the situation. What makes dead air so enjoyable when it falls under the helm of Capt'n Penny is that she immediately chooses to fill it with, if not awkward flirting, one of two solutions: a loud, gruff "YEAH, BABY!" (entirely separate from the context of Austin Powers
...or anything else for that matter) or a misdirected reference to the Yankees. For example, the same day I wrote this, Penny spent the morning at a used auto parts shop in the Bronx where she was encouraged to damage cars for fun before they met their own respective "natural" deaths. Suddenly, before barely cracking a windshield, Crone squatted, held out her bat, and yelled into the camera, "Yo, guys! Do I look like A'Rod?" Naturally, what followed were those precious beats of dead air, which was only heightened for me by the fact that she was wearing what may
have been a smock. Why? Who knows, but that's The Magic of Penny.
It isn't a secret that local news is, to a degree, somewhat of a sham. Anchorman
brilliantly pointed out that after the 1970's, content rarely matters as much as do personality and programming. The people
who deliver the stories, be they about our president's politics or how he spends his six-week vacation (because, boy, does he need it! "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!"), have become enormously important to the whole show, as has the pattern and flow of how we are fed that which the producers decide are valid, air-worthy stories (three words: babies
, and babies
). Fox 5 is regionally notorious for employing scare tactics and MTV-style editing while delivering an unequal amount of stories that "matter" and those that, simply, don't. On Good Day New York
, hard news has never been the main focus, and although there have been feature reporters on the show as far back as I can remember, someone
decided, at some point, that it was time to award Penny Crone the opportunity to capture the places and characters that make our area so colorful. Although it gives people like myself the chance to marvel at the genius of such harmless, inadvertent disaster (I literally gawk until I realize I should close my mouth), the same person who made this choice also forgot that Penny Crone, herself, is a character. She's a bumbling, shouting buffoon whose lack of self-realization (just watch her hands shake and try to convince yourself that it isn't
an offshoot of vertigo) makes for an irreverent several minutes of television that make me never want to leave New York.
In an age of states assigned colors, I'm afraid that the rest of the country just wouldn't get
the accidental splendor that comes each and every time Penny Crone participates in a "human wheelbarrow" race on live TV. In a way, it almost makes sense that The New York State Shields (I'm sorry, who
??) awarded her with this year's honor for "Integrity In Journalism." Clearly, they must have caught the segment where Penny interviewed volunteers for a dog shelter and wrapped up everything by asking a burly, unattractive man if he
was, in fact, up for adoption. Because that's
the kind of technique they don't teach you in journalism school.
Is Penny Crone the best reporter in New York? By no means.
Is seeing Penny Crone in a sarongue and baseball cap my idea of some guilt-free, delicious television? The answer, in her very own words: