Ronan Farrow: Awesome on Twitter, Awful on Television

Ronan Farrow: Awesome on Twitter, Awful

Ronan Farrow has the kind of resume that’s difficult to match. He graduated from college at the tender age of 15; went on to collect degrees from Yale Law School and Oxford U., the latter on a Rhodes scholarship; and worked at the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs and for the Obama administration.

Impressive as all that is, none of those credentials finishes among the top three reasons MSNBC gave him his own show last month. In ascending order, they are: the endless promotional value that comes with his being the progeny of Mia Farrow; his movie-star good looks; and most important of all … he’s awesome on Twitter.

That may sound trivial, but to think otherwise is naive. There are plenty of policy wonks out there with resumes that can fill a phone book, but very few of them boast a built-in audience on the strength of their online personality.

Farrow somehow manages to be a combination of funny, charming or insightful in every single tweet without the usual mistake Twitter stars make: They just plain overdo it.

Which makes it all the more mystifying that MSNBC’s savvy move to bring him to TV has turned out to be such a dud, drawing mostly negative reviews.

It’s an interesting test case in the tricky translation to a different platform of a star best known in social media. The logic behind making such a conversion seems as sound as it is simple: Bringing over someone with a powerful direct connection to 238,000 followers gives a TV show a running start in the ratings. But somewhere on the way to TV, Farrow’s appeal got lost.

That said, neither he nor the nature of Twitter is principally at fault.

Sure, before the man so much as opened his mouth, his face seemed to bear some blame. His eerie resemblance to his alleged is-he-or-isn’t-he father Frank Sinatra is a distraction. Or maybe Farrow is just too damned handsome; those limpid pools he calls eyeballs are so mesmerizing it’s easy to lose track of what he’s saying.

But being too telegenic isn’t really the problem here. In his opening weeks on the air, Farrow has seemed tentative and ill at ease, prone to stumbling on his words. More to the point, he just doesn’t resemble the guy who is so dazzling on social media.

But concluding that the kind of personality that succeeds on Twitter is just a totally different animal than the type conducive to good TV would be wrong. Because it’s actually MSNBC that needs to fall on its sword for failing Farrow; the network put him in a format that doesn’t capture the essence of his Twitter persona.

Cable news basically has two different types of personality-driven shows. The first is where the anchor takes a backseat to the commentator he or she is interviewing. The job is to tee up the topic at hand and ask intelligent questions, but to otherwise get out of the way and let the news be the star. That’s the format MSNBC gave Farrow, and it’s the wrong one.

What the network should have done was give him the kind of forum that makes people like Keith Olbermann or Bill O’Reilly famous, in which the questioner and commentator are essentially the same person; those they interview are really just furniture. It’s here where Farrow could have employed the wit and opinion he puts to such good use on Twitter, but is totally muffled in his current vehicle.

It’s not too late for MSNBC to make the kind of switch that will allow Farrow to recapture his voice. If the network is simply hoping that with enough air time he won’t come off so green, that would represent a fundamental misunderstanding of what isn’t working. There’s no sense in tapping talent from social media if the TV world can’t recreate the kind of environment that made that talent so compelling in the first place.

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 129

Leave a Reply


Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. Verbena says:

    I like Ronan’s show, but then it’s now November and he’s had several months to get the kinks out. However, his voice…. it sounds like it’s still in puberty. Perhaps he could take some training in lowering it.

  2. TheBigBangOf20thCenturyPopCulture says:

    The kid is wasting his time being a talking head. News opinion as entertainment is a pedestrian career choice these days with all the 24/7 digital media options. He should make like his dad–Our Father of Song—and bring good music back. Son of Sinatra needs to step up and show millennials how to sing.

  3. DaDa says:

    One of the worst programs I have ever had of displeasure of watching for 8 minutes. Get this garbage off the airwaves ASAP.

  4. Jeannie says:

    I totally disagree with you. I enjoy his show and his brilliance on MSNBC. That was before I knew anything about him. I am not a Twitter follower of anyone! I had no idea that Mia Farrow was his mother and it doesn’t change my opinion either way. I am not a fan of Mia’s, but I am of her “progeny”.

  5. TVWatcher says:

    He seems a little CNN. That’s not so good.

  6. Sorry guys. I enjoy Ronan Farrow’s show and his intelligent approach to the story. No, he is not fast talking, overly excited or aghast at every turn – thank goodness! The hyperbole of many television hosts is off;putting for me.

  7. Milsa says:

    He sucks! He has to go! It’s not the format.

  8. Zane says:

    I concur…they need to change the set up. Honestly he looks very sick and pale to me in this current setting because of color choices and brightness. He is a fair boy in looks, the ashy lips and the red rings around the eyes have to go…Also the set makes him look very small, unprepared and geeky. Get him over to evening hours with a set that makes him look alive and not like the walking dead and lets enjoy some of his snappy opinionated personality that peeks a boo on twitter….he will be the new voice of the young and restless if they do this right. Good Luck Ronan … Ole blue eyes is proud of you.

  9. JD says:

    It is a joke that Ronan Farrow calls himself a ‘human rights activist’ and cares about others as he just seems more like a gossip queen by continuously making fun of others and writing mainly to and about celebrities on his twitter. I would say he is the new Perez Hilton.

  10. Suits really know how to hire talent.

  11. Rich says:

    Did it ever occur to you that maybe he is new at this? He is not a seasoned newscaster nor has he been doing this for that long. I think that over time, he will get more comfortable in front of the camera. however, I wonder if you are just jealous? People who pass judgement so quickly without giving the person the opportunity to grow in the position tells me you have some issues with smart attractive people. If you had written this a year ago, then I might agree with you. People in Hollywood need to get over themselves and stop being so self indulgence. Sorry, but as you can see, I totally disagree with you.

  12. Having less than 250 K followers does not a twitter star make. He probably got half of them from his mother. I love how NY media love to try to make stars out of people the average person finds boring. See Lena Dunham.

  13. maroon says:

    probably half his following on twitter is fake…

  14. Why is this kid still on the air?
    He is a complete embarrassment for MSBNC.

  15. daryl s says:

    Ronan Farrow is definately hot and good looking, he does have the good looks of hollywood.

  16. Craig Taylor says:

    Now if you really want to see incredible good looks, brilliance and manliness personified, try that MSNBC glorious spectacle: The Al Sharpton Show,,Wow, that puke really can dazzle..Thanks MSNBC.

  17. Nancy says:

    Ronan.. (what kind of moniker is THAT anyway?)…. is a lot of rather un-tasty things…
    …. but being a graduate from Rhodes is all anyone needs to know to label him for what he IS…. a progressive One World Order centralized government promoter.
    He is knee-jerk programmed to the max…. his genetic father must be doing high speed rpm’s in his coffin!…
    Sinatra might have been a jerk at times, but he was a MAN!

    • Mary Leahy says:

      Not sure who his father is but he sure looks just like his Grandfather, John Farrow!

      • Denise Lawson says:

        Not one of you naysayers could duplicate the incredible educational background of this man. He needs time to hone his skill ……As for the name Ronan…it is an Irish name…..
        Nancy is the most common name imaginable……
        You are a very nasty woman.

  18. Bill McCormack says:

    It is also rumored that he is gay

  19. So he’s “awesome” on the ‘prepared’ media where someone could be telling him what to say . . or even writing it for him? And he’s “awful” on TV . . where you can see it’s actually HIM? Interesting.

    That’s a good likeness to Barack Obama. Barack is “awesome” as long as he’s reading a teleprompter. But Barack proved to be terrible when his teleprompter went out . . and when he had to face Mitt Romney in Denver, one-on-one. Barack turned into a foggy headed babbling baboon.

    Maybe they should both stick to working with words dictated by others . . . . . .

  20. charcramer says:

    When it comes to TV, either you’ve got it, or you don’t. It’s not about degrees or famous parents or Twitter. I am so glad you wrote this article. Brian Williams and Matt Lauer did not even finish college. They also worked their way up at college stations and in local TV. Ronan Farrow might want to try a high school or college TV station before NBC News. Or better yet, just stick to Twitter.

  21. Jim Rose says:

    So what you are saying is that he’s so much cooler online. That or he just sucks and the whole goo-goo ga-ga world of Hollywood doesn’t represent most of America.

  22. barry coulter says:

    ” That may sound trivial, but to think otherwise is naive”.

    That would mean that you would be naïve to think it is not trivial.

  23. Maggie Roberts says:

    Ronan Farrow does not have movie star good looks! Sinatra didn’t have those looks either — but at least he could sing. I have watched Farrow’s show twice and have concluded that he has the most irritating voice. He should really stick to Twitter.

  24. Days of Broken Arrows says:

    How do we even know it’s him who is writing those Tweets and not a hired hand? Should we just assume celebrities are behind their own Twitter accounts, esp. when their personalities don’t reflect their Tweets in the real world?

  25. Nonsenseyousay says:

    But, but, but he already won an award. He must be awesome, ’cause he won an award only a few days after he started on TV. So, this article can’t be right.

  26. Koblog says:

    “…those limpid pools he calls eyeballs are so mesmerizing it’s easy to lose track of what he’s saying.”

    Andrew, you saucy minx. Why don’t you just come out and say it?

    And, yeah, it’s all MSNBC’s fault Boy Wonder is not killing the ratings because Farrell/Allen/Sinatra’s not playing to his Twitter strengths. Sure it is.

    I’ve heard of sound bites, but a whole show in 140 characters? Doesn’t sound practical.

    Must be the limpid pools.

  27. billsmith says:

    Who the heck reads people’s twitter comments? If he is so great at it, why didn’t they print a single one in the article to try and convince me that he is of any interest, other than that of possibly being sinatra’s love child? Honestly, it probably wouldn’t matter, I would never watch anything on PMSNBC anyway, unless it’s the once weekly 30-45 seconds of the Ricky Madcow that I tune in for just for a laugh.

    • Trina says:

      He’s not Frank Sinatra’s love child, even though he’s been playing it for all it’s worth, he looks just like his maternal grandfather, the late director, John Farrow

      • Zane says:

        AND he looks like HIS biological father Frank Sinatra. Woody Allen obviously had nothing to do biologically with Ronan. I am 100% sure if they do a paternity test Allen would NOT be the daddy.

      • Don B Leevette says:

        Gasp! You mean Mia did the nasty with her father?!? That is one weird family!

  28. NHBill says:

    People actually used to toil in the vineyards awhile before landing on national TV.

  29. bob onnit says:

    When the Emperor’s New Clothes known as Twitter is revealed for what it really is, a bunch of falsified “followers” and the only real followers being the media who tell us what celebrities said because no one with a life actually has the time nor inclination to “follow” these people, the whole thing will collapse.
    No one cares what Ronan Farrow has to say and MSNBC is grasping at straws trying to save it’s abysmal ratings. Which are caused by their other strident and boot licking leftist hosts that no one cares about.

  30. Bob kerlin says:

    He is not like able- he is not hate able-ergo no one wants to watch him. He is day old oatmeal

  31. Sal says:

    Great resume…..give him another award

  32. Berke Zane says:

    Did anyone really think he could carry his own show? His family and handlers decided it was time to groom him to be a Matt Lauer. So they put him over on MSNBC where NO ONE will see and see he’s not right and he gets a chance to grow up and get some MAN CHOPS. If not he’ll host quirky A&E fare and do house makeovers and the like.

  33. Jacques Strappe says:

    “What the network should have done was give him the kind of forum that makes people like Keith Olbermann or Bill O’Reilly famous, in which the questioner and commentator are essentially the same person; those they interview are really just furniture.”

    That’s some awesome writing, Mr. Wallenstein! And so spot on.

    • Rich says:

      His show is geared primarily to younger audiences. He is not an anchor for NBC or CBS evening news. It’s a show directed to 18 and up. You people need to get a life and stop criticizing. You probably do that in real life too?

      • Rich says:

        I have two words for you. Stop watching.. All you need to do is get your remote and just click! It’s really that simple.

      • J.P. says:

        “You people need to get a life and stop criticizing.” And you? You’re criticizing others’ comments on a article critical of Ronan Farrow — who is simply unwatchable. There are plenty of intelligent, accomplished, incisive people out there, attractive or not, who would be excellent right out of the gate. He is not. I look forward to someone else filling that time slot soon.

  34. M Weeks says:

    The mistake MSNBC repeatedly makes is not grooming or training their hosts for the on-camera performance. There are so many irritating screamers, interrupters, amateur gigglers, and awkward interviewers that it often comes across as high school television by the really smart kids. Maturity is another quality lacking in many of the hosts. I miss the cleverness, brilliant language, depth of understanding and global view of Martin Bashir. Pettiness rules.

    • ravengirl57 says:

      I miss Martin Bashir as well. And speaking of petty, would that they could combine Bashir’s biting and intellectual wit and banter with Farrow’s looks, limpid pools and all.

  35. Dear Variety:

    Thanks for the article – it took courage to tell the truth about Ronan.

    Now may I ask you to do something else that will take courage? ell him it is time for him to take a DNA test to find out if Woody or Frank is his father.

    He has bashed Woody relentlessly – as his father. Lots of publicity for him.

    But what if Woody isn’t his father? Think about it – what type of person doesn’t want to know the truth about who fathered him or her?

    His lack of personal integrity is demonstrated by his willingness to live a lie about his father. It also shows he’s a shallow publicity-whore who exploits the mystery for his self-promotion.

    And you wonder why people aren’t going to trust him for an honest interpretation of current events?

    He isn’t honest with himself – how could anyone believe he is honest about anything else?

    So go to the next level: call for Ronan to take a DNA test and tell the truth about himself.

    After all – isn’t that what he expects others to do about themselves when they appear on his program?

    • Rich says:

      Live a lie about their fathers? Do you know how many people don’t know their fathers, or never want to know their real fathers? If the kid doesn’t want to do a DNA test, what’s it to you? Lack of personal integrity? lol… oh geez.. let’s start bullying people because they aren’t giving you answers. To be honest, I think that Ronan was thrust into this situation by to consenting adults.. no matter who they me be. It’s none of your business who the father is. If he chooses not to know.. then that is his business. Reading some of these comments surely confirms what I thought all along about Hollywood… Very self absorbed people who will bully others to feel better about themselves.

      • Rich says:

        Ronan enjoys the speculation? Are those his words or yours? Funny thing.. so many comments on here about his “Pater familias”. And were you there when all that went down? Everyone sides with Woody, but forgets he was stuping his step daughter who called him father while still living under the same roof as Mia. You wouldn’t call that “strange bedfellows”?

      • Anna N. says:

        I seriously doubt he is Frank Sinatra’s, but Mia just had to put that out there. Ronan enjoys the speculation, and it feeds his ‘celebrity’ — a calculated move on MIa’s part. Sickening. If they hate Woody Allen so much, one would have thought they would have settled that long ago and either never brought it up at all or stated it as a fact. But no, this is so much more fun and so useful, all the speculation and the attention. Lack of personal integrity. I think the original comment had it right.

    • N.H. says:

      Spot on, sir. I do believe you’ve hit the nail on the head.

  36. Richard Mugg says:

    I guess there’s not a lot of money in just being a Twitter celebrity, whatever that is.

  37. rc33 says:

    Being clever on Twitter means he’ll be great on television? That’s a pretty absurd assumption, even by MSNBC standards.
    …did I just suggest MSNBC has standards?

  38. Syme Winston says:

    I thought he would do better, especially since he has won the Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism. He’s EVEY bit as good as Tom Brokaw… ;) LOL

  39. lillian johnson says:

    He seems like a nice young man, but he is is a boring. His presentation is flat. He looks scruffy. I hope you revisit your thinking on keeping this young man on air.

  40. Cynthia Leleko says:

    He is really pretty, and evidently smart… but call me when his voice changes – he just seems too young for network news.

  41. cowardobama says:

    Par for the course when you’re talking about Koolaid Slurping Obama Sheep. The camera & The truth are what most Liberals RUN from. Twitter tweats are the cheap shot of Social Networking. I said Networking, …NOT Engineering.

  42. Joe Drager says:

    But he won the Walter Crankcase Award!

  43. tessie says:

    some of these comments are really good..witty too!

  44. N.H. says:

    I’m embarrassed that MSNBC hired him. That whole thing Woody Allen ambush was shameless: Mia signed the papers to allow her clips to be used in the Golden Globes tribute to Woody, and then she and Ronan started their tweet campaign as it aired, generating an enormous amount of convenient, timely and undeserved publicity for Ronan. Glad the public is rejecting him. He is painful to watch, and it’s not just his stumbling delivery and flat affect. There is something creepy about him, so self-consciously pretty and smug — almost as creepy as those photos of Mia gazing adoringly up at him.

    • Heather says:

      Agree 1000 percent. In addition to fomenting a 20 year old family feud for his 15 minutes, Ronan also changed his name and his pr floated a lame story that a 73 year old married, senile frank Sinatra was his real father. The ability to cast people off and superficially reinvent oneself are signs you might be a psychopath. The only question in my mind is whether Satchel/Ronan is a little psychopath, or whether his mothers psychopathology is driving the media invention of Ronan Farrow.

      • N.H. says:

        I would have bet on his mother’s psychopathology until that Woody stunt, which he reveled in. Whatever damage Mia inflicted with her pathological hatred of Woody is compounded by her adulation of Ronan. And I don’t think he is Sinatra’s, but he’s going to ride that gravy train for all it’s worth.

  45. Dissector says:

    Uh, with only 240,000 followers, I would say that Ronan Farrow is not very good at Twitter either. I mean, Justin Beiber, the biggest idiot in North America, has 50 million followers.

  46. Hank Bender says:

    As we say in the Republic of Texas, “All hat and no cattle”.

  47. D. Rickles says:

    Awesome on twitter. Wow, the kid’s a GENIUS, a genius I tell you! He’s got a weird mouth and a face for radio and a girl’s voice. Perfect for MSLNBC.

  48. Why would anyone care what this 20-something supporter of a pederast father thinks?

  49. Danny Moore says:

    I love the furniture comment as regards Bill or Keith. The way Bill interviews it is obvious that guests are just props for his views. No need to reveal a new fact or understanding. Probably same for Keith

  50. tony says:

    All MSNBC and FOX, CNN etc news hosts are chosen for 2 reasons, they can read a teleprompter without looking like they are reading, and they are good looking.

More Voices News from Variety