CBS 46 Tony Awards blunder blows up social media, angers viewers

Atlanta affiliate dumps live Tonys telecast just as Atlanta-birthed Best Musical nominee category is announced

Monday’s forecast at CBS 46? Partly cloudy with a 100 percent chance of highly animated staff meetings. Inexplicably, on Sunday night, the Atlanta CBS affiliate decided to dump its live feed of the 67th annual Tony Awards just before the final category of the evening, Best Musical was announced and, instead, opted to air its 11 o’clock news. Compounding the insult for local theatre fans, who had just invested three hours in the live telecast from New York City’s Radio City Music Hall? Atlanta’s own Tony Award-winning Alliance Theatre had birthed Bring It On: The Musical, one of the 2013 nominees for Best Musical.

The city’s theater fans promptly blasted the decision across the Twitter-verse and the telecast dump received more than 400 comments on the station’s CBS 46 “We Ask Tough Questions” Facebook page. So, the station went into damage control and hastily typed up Tony winners for CBS Atlanta weekend anchor Bernard Watson to read on the fly near the conclusion of the newscast. The result was an instant entry into the 2013 Atlanta Press Club Gorilla Ball news blooper awards: “We just checked for you Tony fans and here are the final winners of tonight’s Tony Awards. Cicely Tyson won her first Tony for her revival of A Trip to Beautiful Pippin and finally, Kenny Boots won Best Musical. That’s a mouth full.” (In the anchor’s defense, and according to tweets from his Twitter account, Watson had one eye on the NBA finals and not the Tonys as he prepped for the 11 o’clock report Sunday).

For the record, Tyson’s eloquent acceptance speech was for Best Actress in a Play for the revival of The Trip to Bountiful while Pippin won for Best Revival of a Musical and Cyndi Lauper’s Kinky Boots won the evening’s Best Musical Tony.

The 26-second unintentional but highly inventive Broadway mash up (seriously, you can bet someone at Dad’s Garage is already working on this) immediately made its way to YouTube with the title, CBS Atlanta Tony Fail and had racked up 680 views by 8:30 a.m. Monday.
Posted Alliance Theatre special events and board manager Lindsey Hardegree on Facebook: “Mortified that in a town that supports theatre like Atlanta does, and in a year where the Alliance Theatre has a show, Bring It On: The Musical, nominated for Best Musical (the final award of the night) that CBS Atlanta not only felt the need to cut off the broadcast 10 minutes before the Tony Awards ended, but then felt this video adequately made up for it. Seriously?”

Wrote veteran Atlanta arts photographer Susan Ross on the CBS Atlanta Facebook page: “Why on earth did CBS Atlanta cut off the Tony Awards for the lowest rated news program in Atlanta?” Added viewer Michael Parks: “Fire the idiot program director who decided to cut the Tonys to air the news to tell us it was raining and yet another home was broken into.” And perhaps most cutting comment came from viewer Mike Lasseter who posted this: “No wonder you are number three in Atlanta. You need to send your Rain Man anchor back to school to learn how to read.”
Aside from the attempted Tony recap, CBS Atlanta had not as yet posted an apology to angry viewers via social media as of this posting early Monday morning.

But Atlanta playwright and actor Topher Payne was taking a more measured approach to the blunder on his Facebook page, posting: “I won’t take shots at the messenger here. Local news is a hell of gig. Social media blows up with angry Tony viewers so they go into damage control. There’s someone frantically typing up text and the anchor is reading it in real time off the prompter with no clue what he’s saying and there’s words like ‘Bountiful’ and ‘Kinky’ flying at him. Basically, welcome to news anchor Nightmare Town.”