On the premiere of her NBC morning show five weeks ago, Megyn Kelly said viewers should expect “to have a laugh with us, a smile, sometimes a tear, and maybe a little hope to start your day. Some fun! That’s what we want to be doing. Some fun.”
Last Monday — and on five consecutive episodes after that — Kelly opened her program with fierce commentary on the seriously un-fun subject of sexual harassment. The host who declared herself “kind of done with politics for now” called out prominent figures in politics and political media, including President Trump, George H.W. Bush, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly and Mark Halperin.
Kelly said she envisioned a show that would resemble a mimosa because of its “effervescence,” but her recent monologues have been anything but bubbly. They also have been her best-reviewed work since she left a prime-time slot on Fox News at the beginning of the year.
For example: Vanity Fair’s Emily Jane Fox, who chronicled early internal and external criticism of Megyn Kelly Today, wrote last week that the host “brought some of her old cutthroat flair” to a segment in which she disputed O’Reilly’s claim that no one at Fox News had complained about his behavior.
The question is whether the “flair” is back for good or just visiting on a special occasion (the special occasion being a wave of sexual-harassment allegations against public figures).
NBC insists that Kelly’s hard edge is totally consistent with the show’s original vision.
“Our goal from the beginning was to present a smart, informative program that would uplift, inspire and empower,” Jackie Levin, Kelly’s executive producer, said in a statement. “Sexual harassment is not only dominating headlines but is pervasive, affecting nearly half of women in the workplace, according to recent polls. Given it’s a topic that Megyn also feels very strongly about, it’s been a natural fit for her to cover in a way that has hopefully helped empower viewers.”
Levin did, indeed, tell the New York Times before the show’s launch that she believes viewers in the 9 a.m. hour want to be “informed” and “inspired.”
But she also added this: “I think, most importantly, people want to laugh a little bit more.”
Kelly’s show can be wide-ranging, of course, and it has been. Tuesday’s Halloween-themed episode, for which Kelly dressed up as Shania Twain, was as soft as a nougat-filled candy. Kelly has touched on serious subjects such as gun violence, at times, and broken out in dance, at others. She has interviewed celebrity guests and members of her audience.
There is no ban on variety.
At its core, though, a show needs an identity. Is Megyn Kelly Today primarily an escape from current events or a deep dive into them? When viewers think of Kelly, do they think of fun and laughs or hard takes on the news of the day?
In the past, Kelly earned a reputation for the latter. She set out to become known for the former. Time will tell whether her recent commentary on sexual harassment is the exception or the rule on Megyn Kelly Today.