What Works for Ronan Farrow on Twitter Does Not Translate to Daytime TV

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Ronan Farrow, the professional young smarty-pants who was supposed to bring millennial viewers by the truckload to MSNBC's afternoon programming, has so far not delivered much of anything, and now his show reportedly might be on the chopping block. 

The New York Daily News' Confidential says MSNBC executives are debating canceling Ronan Farrow Daily, the daytime cable news show hosted by the popular and polarizing 26-year-old, after just a month on air. “He sort of stinks on TV,” one MSNBC source told the Daily News. “He hasn’t turned out to be the superstar they were hoping for." Others agree, apparently. "Just because someone is a boy genius-turned-Twitter star doesn’t mean they deserve their own TV show," said another source. Ouch.

In terms of television, the show's performance so far could charitably be described as disastrous: 8 a.m. Golden Girls reruns are drawing substantially more average viewers than Farrow. As the kids say, literally no one watches Ronan Farrow Daily.

Politico's Dylan Byers decided to throw some cold water on the Daily News report by taking MSNBC's "not true" statement at face value. "We're happy with the debut of 'Ronan Farrow Daily' and the show's progress this first month. MSNBC will continue to support Ronan and his team as they develop and grow the program," MSNBC spokesperson Lauren Skowrosnki told Politico. MSNBC gave the exact same statement to the Daily News

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But Byers believes MSNBC set up Farrow for failure, with bigger dreams in mind: 

Then again, maybe Griffin wasn't after ratings. Maybe he thought, if 1 p.m. is a dead slot, why not use it as a training ground to see if we can whip this wunderkind into a primetime star? If it fails, no matter — no one's watching anyway. And indeed, no one is watching.

Which is a great theory except for the fact that it does not answer for Farrow's poor performance. The problem is not limited to the fact that no one is tuning in. The problem is Ronan. As the Daily News explains, he has been an abysmal presence on TV so far. The Yale-educated Rhodes scholar may work well enough on Twitter, where his 245,000 followers enjoy his finely crafted witticism, but those skills do not necessarily translate to television. He has been awkward and unsure of himself in the off-the-cuff world of daytime television. You cannot backspace and edit a live television segment. Farrow could benefit from more off-screen fine-tuning. The skills and confidence to succeed on television are learned. When a fresh-faced new kid is thrown to the wolves for live on-the-job training, the results do not translate well for viewers at home, and they can affect Ronan's long-term chances to succeed. That his set is basically a word cloud of his Wikipedia told through hashtags does not help Ronan's cause, because it is embarrassing for everyone involved. 

Farrow has succeed wildly at nearly everything in life. He has worked as a lawyer and as a diplomat for the State Department. Television, it turns out, may be his achilles heel. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.