Mornings at the Markets with My TV Family

It’s Monday and I am toggling between the wake-me-up news shows, from Late Night Charlie to Morning Joe to whomever those other lightweights are. But occasionally I take a swerve to Squawk Box to see if a financial cataclysm as occurred overnight.

I admit I found this detour far less annoying before Mark Haines died. He was a bluff, old-fashioned, far from a progressive newscaster, but he seemed reasonably intelligent, reasonably fair-minded and had enough mileage to be skeptical of a lot of the guff his Washington and Wall Street guests were spouting.

Ever since his dimmer sidekick, Joe Kernen, was given the big guy’s chair, trying to learn what the markets are up to has been a lot more trying. It’s as if Ed McMahon were given the job when Johnny left or Pancho took over for Cisco. Can we say, out of his depth?

Presumably Andrew Ross Sorkin, a really smart journalist, was hired to provide some intellectual heft, but he’s forced to endure boneheaded locker room banter. Becky Quick tries to play along with the boys, as smart women in a world of stupid men are forced to do. And then there’s the even more grotesque supporting cast. Grim.

But the other morning everything changed when it dawned on me what I was really watching – “All in the Family.”

Kernen is Archie, a man several decades out of date but completely unaware he’s a fount of politically, economically and morally wrongheaded views. And perhaps dimly aware that all the powerful and obscenely wealthy people he’s covering have won the brass ring while he’s never even located the merry-go-round. They aren’t going to be his pal, either, once the red light goes out.

Poor Sorkin is the college boy, Meathead to Kernen, who gets no respect. Quick is Gloria (it’s surprising Kernen doesn’t call her “Little Girl”), who tries to keep the peace without getting in Daddy’s line of fire.

Steve Liesman appears actually to be a reasonable, analytically-minded economist who is regularly overpowered or interrupted or ignored by Kernen and the even more dismissive supporting cast. Obviously he is Edith.

As to those supporting cast members, Rick Santelli can only be George Jefferson. Of course on the original “All in the Family,” Jefferson was way to the left of Archie. But that was then; this is now. Today the place for touchy, aggravated people is clearly to the howling-dog right and Santelli is the anti-government ranter who has become a darling of the Tea Party. He is allowed to pipe up from Chicago now and then to add some real extremism to the show.

Jim Cramer, the king of incomprehensibly fast-talking blowhards, isn’t really a part of the family. He follows Squawk Box on Squawk on the Street. But he sticks his head in often enough to deserve cameo billing as, who else? He’s the overbearing, unbearable Maude.

Ever since I understood I was watching a sitcom and not a financial news show, I’ve been more able to tolerate the squawking on Squawk Box. In fact, I can’t wait for the spinoffs.

Cramer has already got his, shamelessly touting stocks at night. I think there might be room for Meathead and Little Gloria to go off on their own and actually cover the news.

With any luck that would leave Kernan to end as Archie did, alone at a bar in Queens. Preferably, not televised.

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