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23 September 2014

Must-see TV: Balancing the ugly

Charles Osgood works weekends. (

Excellence.  TV news.

We don't see those words connected in thought much these days; not in a TV-watching era when local news anchors announce twice without any sort of correction that a man was arrested for "indacent" exposure instead of indecent exposure.

First the bad news, but stay with me.  I promise some very good news is forthcoming.  We are constantly barraged with a plethora of indecent exposure on TV these days from Dancing with the Has-Been Stars  (Tommy Chong:  Really, man?) to Dating Naked and too many so-so sitcoms to even count.

Check out the TV evening network news and you'll be inundated with a constant backwash of gruesome stories about ISIS militants beheading innocents, college students disappearing off college campuses and other carnage almost too grisly to mention; most recently a man in Florida calmly calling 911 to report to police that  he has just shot and killed his daughter and his six grandchildren.

Now the good news.  Let's make it the wonderful news.  There's an oasis to be found in the TV airwaves that seem so glutted with depressing news sludge.  It shines like a beacon of goodness, of hope and of people doing things not to bring the human race to the brink of a worm hole of depression and hate that we -- tired of endless worldwide despair -- appear to be all-too eager to leap into.

For lack of a better term, let's call it an offsetting balance to the ugly.

If you've never seen CBS Sunday Morning, hosted by veteran CBS newsman Charles Osgood and airing at 8 a.m. in many markets; 7 in others and 9 in a few, I assure you that you are in for a treat.

Now I would like to issue a challenge to you -- yes you.  I would like you to raise your right hand and say these words out loud:

"I, ____________ ______________, promise to watch one complete episode of CBS Sunday Morning before declaring to everyone I know that Larry Ratliff has finally lost it."

That's all I'm asking, just one full show without fast-forwarding, multitasking or in any other way (including snacking) distracting yourself from what I feel is the most intelligent television available today.

Granted, Osgood, whom CBS calls its poet-in-residence, is 81 now and is prone to leaning a bit to one side from time to time.  What this remarkable journalist broadcaster brings, though, is smooth, confident calmness to a world many believe may be spinning out of control around him.

It all begins with the soothing notes of Abblasen, a trumpet fanfare originally played in recording by Don Smithers, later Doc Severinsen, Johnny Carson's Tonight Show bandleader, and now by Wynton Marsalis.

Then there's Osgood, with a bow tie perhaps a little askew, standing beside an image of a welcoming sun, as if the world has another chance -- a new beginning -- to get things right.

And this show does get it right, offering a varied progression of extremely well-produced human interest, in-depth features and historical stories that might just make you wonder -- as it does my wife and me -- if the next segment can possibly measure up.  But they do, and not solely because of Osgood, who is tremendous.

This is a show with an award-winning, experienced staff of behind-the-scenes people and reporters who know how to ask questions and report the news, whether it be a story about the Queen Mary, the infamous ocean liner that hasn't sailed in 50 years but is pretty much ready to go, to the finest Joan Rivers memoriam I saw.

Martha Teichner (

My favorite reporter on the show is Martha Teichner, a former war correspondent and eight-time Emmy Award winner who joined CBS in 1977 and has worked on CBS Sunday Morning since 1993.  If you'd like an example of Teichner's outstanding reporting, click on this link to view one of her recent stories, Monument Valley:  Mother Nature's Scene-Stealing Movie Star.

And don't you dare think of CBS Sunday Morning as old-fogey news.  There are stories of 11-year-olds making a difference in this world, for instance, and some younger journalists on the staff.  I prefer not to judge the elders on the show by notches on the calendar, but as seasoned vets; able, smart, vibrant reporters and anchors wise beyond even their somewhat advanced years.

You learn things from watching this show, things that you will enjoy learning and that will enrich your life.  Did you know, for instance, that the Queen Mary was so fast for its day that during World War II it out-ran German subs and even German torpedoes?  You would know if you watched on Sept. 21.

My final point:  The world is not really divided between the young and those older separated by a great abyss of misunderstanding.  Sometimes the two can meet in a truly magical way.  You might be amazed what really good journalists can do with the simple news that Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga recorded an album together.  Please click the arrow below.


Now repeat after me:  "I, ____________ ______________, promise to watch one complete episode of CBS News Sunday Morning ..."