TV Review: ‘Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly’

Vladimir Putin Megyn Kelly
Courtesy of NBC News

NBC paid a lot of money to bring Megyn Kelly to 30 Rock, and we’ve yet to see the full array of work that the former Fox News anchor will bring to the Peacock. In September, she’ll unveil a daily 9 a.m. program, but first up was newsmagazine “Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly.”

Sunday’s debut episode was not a bad hour of TV — only one segment was cringe-inducing — but it was a long way from must-see TV.

One thing that can be said about it is that was better than the Fox newsmagazine-ish special that Kelly unveiled a year ago, at the height of her headline-making conflict with Donald Trump. But that is not a high bar to clear: That Fox special was flat, bland and poorly put-together. Her first “Sunday Night” performance was passable, but not much more than that.

It actually resembled her Fox special a bit, in that the promotion of the hour revolved around a big “get.” This time around it wasn’t Trump, but the other key player in America’s ongoing political drama, Russian President Vladimir Putin. In two different venues — at a panel discussion at an economic forum in St. Petersburg that Kelly moderated, and in a one-on-one interview — Putin batted away her questions like so many troublesome mosquitos.

It’s important that the questions be asked, of course: The queries about Russian involvement in America’s election and Russian influence on Trump and his advisors were necessary to the public record. But they offered no new real insights. The answers to every question — or every version of essentially the same question — was that the allegations of interference and collusion were “nonsense.”

Before becoming Russia’s leader, Putin was in the KGB and headed the FSB, facts that Kelly mentioned during her narration. Given all that, there was simply no chance that she was going to break his icy reserve or get a new answer to these accusations, which Putin and his mouthpieces have denied for a very long time. For all the attempts to make Kelly’s interview of Putin into a dramatic showdown, it was actually very short on dramatics and long on repetition.

The next two pieces were reasonably good, but not really up to the level of “60 Minutes,” which is still the reigning champ in the newsmagazine game.

The piece on a drug manufacturer allegedly pushing doctors (and the company’s employees) to get people on a very dangerous pain medication meant only for those with cancer (despite the fact that these patients did not have cancer) was solid, if a little longer than it needed to be. Correspondent Cynthia McFadden laid out the case clearly, and her interview with a whistleblower gave a complete picture of the cravenness of the company’s scheme. But it also seemed vaguely familiar, given the depressingly high number of similar news stories in the last few years about such ethically bankrupt schemes.

At the very end of the piece, it was noted that the company did a roaring $240 million in sales of the drug in question last year; it would have been nice to know if its sales were headed on an upward or downward trajectory over the past few years. Overall, it was an informative piece, but one that would not have seemed all that out of place on “Dateline” or “NBC Nightly News.”

A subsequent piece on saving elephants in Africa, while beautiful to look at, was also generally short on numbers. All indications from the report pointed to a decline — which is easy to credit (and sad to think about) — but no specific numbers about elephant populations, past or present, were cited. The relatively puffy piece also spent a great deal of time on an American woman who’d gone to Africa to work on elephant conservation, and only a fraction of that time on African women who were doing similar work. This felt incongruous for a few reasons, most notably because the piece concluded that localized efforts rising up from the grass roots of individual communities would be the most effective way to fight poaching.

The final segment was an embarrassment. It was, essentially, a “Kids Say the Darndest Things” type of diversion, one that ignored the realities of how we arrived at this moment in our national political discourse in order to showcase kids being cute while talking about how grown-ups should follow the basic rules of civility.

Well, sure, but riding a wave of divisive rhetoric set loose by Fox News and its various talking heads and anchors is how Megyn Kelly got famous in the first place (not everyone has forgotten her telling viewers that Santa is definitely white and that some of those who work for social justice are pursuing an agenda that revolves around “victimhood”). Airing a piece which came off as the equivalent of patting viewers on the head and talking down to them about how everyone should just be polite is disingenuous, to say the least. The piece also felt wildly out of step with everything else the program was trying to establish, namely a plausible, mainstream journalism persona for Kelly.

The rest of “Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly” was not at that sophomoric level, and Kelly herself was, as she has always been, poised on camera. But the show will have to go much further in matters of quality, urgency and coherence in order to justify the investment in the anchor. In interviews, Kelly sounds as if she’s been eager to prove herself outside the narrow confines of her former perch. That process still appears to be a work in progress, at best.

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  1. Leslie Jackson says:

    GREAT show. I started watching just a few weeks ago and I’m hooked. I didnt’ watch FOX but did see your questions to Trump, and thought this gal’s got it! Congratulations.

  2. LL Kirkham says:

    I watched Megan Kelly’s first show with no anticipation of anything & was totally pleased. I now have opted to watch her show & tape 60 Minutes for later viewing. She’said a no nonsense interviewer.

    Curious as to why her show isn’t on tomorrow night (July 2nd)?

  3. pierre gauthier. says:

    Actually the piece on the elephants was the best part of the show, very touching, hopefull. And the part on the woman, ex military who took on her to put together a task force against poaching was inspiring. Maureen Ryan got it all wrong!

    • Toni says:

      A better story about elephants is to record the selling /dist. of ivory, the reason for poaching. it’s north Korea biggest income.

  4. Voice of Reason says:

    Interviews with dictators are pointless. Always have been. They’re not going to admit to anything nor answer a single question in a direct manner. This is pretty much true of any politician, but these despots are always promoted as huge “gets,” which just makes us all fools for buying into it.

  5. Amused_Reader says:

    Good thing you got that shot at Fox News into this article and the divisive rhetoric they unleashed on mankind. Pay no attention to the nightly Russian rhetoric coming out of MSLSD attempting to drum up the WWIII with Russia that Reagan could not deliver.

    War is big money and NBC wants a few slices of that pie!

  6. jsm1963 says:

    She’s going to have to re-learn journalism.

  7. Jacques Strappe says:

    Her FOX experience on her resume will haunt her till her dying day. The FOX “not factual” News faithful despise her for daring to question Donald J Turnip and any progressive viewers who prefer their news factual and unbiased (and who obviously don’t watch FOX News) have zero interest in Kelly other than a fleeting curiosity. NBC sure knows how to squander money.

  8. Barbara says:

    I don’t think that she is going to make it on her new gig. She isn’t that interesting. Leslie Stahl would have done a better job. I think that the network will regret the lucrative contract that they signed with her.

  9. Frank says:

    a useless story on elephants; a real story
    would have been ( per 60 min) a study of
    who is illegally selling/buying ivory.
    It’s north Korea. A big revenue for their arms funding, and their biggest seller is oh wait
    don’t say it is coal production. Hahaha.
    Another idiot tv show hasn’t realized the internet has more info yet paying a staff of morons, like MK, are such morons they don’t know they’re morons. Righton sista!!!!!!
    Hahahaha !!!!!!!!! Hilarious show. !!!!!

  10. Frank says:

    She doesn’t get that he was calling her stupid.

    • George Lewis says:

      He speaks his mind & he ‘doesn’t suffer fools’. Compared to the general population, Megyn is quite intelligent. Compared to Putin, she’s a mental midget. No match at all.

  11. Laurie says:

    Terribly boring! NBC may regret bringing her to their network.

  12. George Lewis says:

    Putin is a very intelligent man & overall a very popular leader to his people. It’s no contradiction though to say that I’d personally not vote for him (well maybe if he was running against goofy Liz Warren or Hillary etc LOL).

    Putin is also a ‘strong man’ who generally does not feel the need to lie (like American politicians do). He’ll generally be himself & not really care much what Americans or most people outside his country think of him. Therefore, there’s actually considerable truths in his answers including basic truths that American mainstream lame-stream media choose to ignore because it doesn’t serve their anti President Trump agenda.

    Putin’s also clearly laughing at how people are duped by the media’s agenda. The biggest simple truth Putin spoke of: all major nations for a long time (including especially us the USA) have employed significant efforts to influence elections in other nations. Plus exactly what is wrong about us or the Russians or anyone doing that (short of actually hacking voting software which no one has accused Russia of doing even though some news viewers think that’s the case because of the way some media unscrupulously words some of their fake news propaganda)?

    Plus we should actually be thankful to whoever leaked out the truth about Hillary, the DNC, & the rest of her cronies. Of course the leaker(s) were either acting their conscience or their self-interest or both. So what? That’s expected. Bottom line is we Americans received important information towards our decision making (voting) process. The data itself wasn’t disputed. Even if it had been disputed, it would still have been up to voters to decide who to believe.

    Putin’s also laughing about how this non-issue is further dividing America as a nation & diverting our attention from more important competitive matters. Collusion LOL? There is zero evidence of it. We’re investigating a media created event with no underlying crime.

    Let’s move forward & rebuild our great nation (this statement is not robotic support for all of President Trump’s political positions, & especially not support for draconian cuts to programs such as Medicaid & SNAP that are essential in a civilized society for the neediest Americans).

    • George Lewis says:

      loco73, your vulgarity & personal attack displays the weakness of your argument. Are you not able to participate in a family friendly forum in a polite & civil manner. Further, I’m not a ‘fan’ of Putin. I can objectively address his strengths.

  13. Same old stuff. She needs to be on mid day tv.

    • loco73 says:

      “loco73, your vulgarity & personal attack displays the weakness of your argument.”

      Oh sorry did I stutter…I was just saying that people like you are just “yes men” …laying out their reasoning about Putin’s utilitarian contribution to American democracy. There is none, he is just another murderer and killer. The US has blood on it’s hands? Of course. So does every country.

      As I said. Putin’s cockholster. Say hello to your friends in the Kremlin.

    • John K says:

      Anyone who believes Putin does not have the need to lie is either incredible stupid or is actually paid to represent the corrupt Russian government. George, how long did it take you to write this propaganda piece and did you actually think anyone would believe your ridiculous comments.

      • George Lewis says:

        Hello John K. Strong people do not have the need to lie. I guess you don’t understand that especially as we live in a society where lying has become so commonplace (including President Bill Clinton committing perjury under oath). Your personal attack (“stupid”) only shows the weakness of your argument.

        No, I’m not “paid” directly or indirectly for my comment/post. It represents my own views (& that of honest like minded intelligent people). I abhor “propaganda” (which in America is generally a product of leftists). To answer your question, I didn’t time my typing. Maybe a few minutes or so. Neither you nor I represent everyone. There’s a large public of readers of this interesting site, so yes surely many will generally agree with me & many won’t. People who disagree tend to of course be more vocal. You can disagree without personal attack as that shows your comment to be the truly “ridiculous” one. Good day.

  14. I preferred a “60 Minutes” rerun with Lesley Stahl.

  15. dweisman2002 says:

    Mediocre and that’s including the Putin interview, which should have been a highlight. This woman is so over-rated it’s obscene.

  16. Donald R. Girdner Sr. says:

    Megyn Kelly can do better than this show. She needs to loosen up a little bit and get back into the swing of things she did at Fox !! Needs to be more exciting and not so boring for us. Pick it up girl !!! We got your back !!!

  17. John Miller says:

    News Hostess Megyn Kelly!

  18. JoeM says:

    glad I didn’t bother to watch. I’m actually more looking forward to Oliver Stone’s multi-hour interviews with Putin coming up in about two weeks, rathar this fluff-show.

    • loco73 says:

      You won’t get much out of that interview either. It’s a prime example of a nutbar interviewing a mass murderer…we’ve seen that movie before…

  19. Brian says:

    She’s still creeeepy. !!!!!!!!

  20. Nora Desmond says:

    Not a fan. She burned her bridges at FOX and she is going to find herself lost in the crowd on network TV

  21. Ruth Deutsch says:

    One thing this show can do that “60 Minutes” cannot is to produce stories on pharmaceuticals, that is, the downside, where stories exist and need to be told. Why can’t “60 Minutes”? Because they are heavily sponsored by the drug mfrs.

  22. YouAreSoTransparent says:

    Get off your bias liberal high horse. Your articles are everything journalism is not supposed to be. Bias based on politics. How DWS/DB/HRC paid you well to lose your soul.

  23. Sharon S Parris says:

    I am saddened by the fact that even though I had NBC Nightly News set for 2 days to notify me when it came on, I missed it. I checked all over the net but was unsuccessful in finding the show because I admire Kelly and cannot believe that she was boring. Hopefully I can locate and watch it for myself.

  24. Michael Anthony says:

    She’s a joke. The pic from a couple if days ago with her wearing a low cut, let’s go to the clubs, put It, played to his known womanizer reputation.

  25. I don’t know why we waste our time interviewing Vladimir Putin I would not believe one word he says. 60 Minutes has only been doing this format for 50 years so Sunday Night will need to carve out its own unique perspective. There are many fine journalists at NBC

    • YouAreSoTransparent says:

      Same reason we interview Hillary Clinton, when she’s been proven with verifiable evidence that she cannot tell the truth about anything. Get out of the cry baby political mode. It’s despicable.

      • Ruth says:

        Hillary??? That broad is the biggest liar ever to walk the earth. In fact I wish the earth would swallow her up and I would no longer have to see her.

      • cadavra says:

        Meanwhile, in the real world, Politifact found Hillary to be the most truthful of all the 2016 candidates. (You can guess who was the biggest liar; his initials are DJT.) Please provide this “verifiable” evidence. Oh, no, wait, you can’t, because it doesn’t exist.

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