The charms of self-quarantine are limited, and all of them are odd. Find out how much of your own body hair you can remove using your rapidly lengthening fingernails! Develop a crush on the one bird you keep seeing from your window!
Please, help yourself to one more accidental delight of this deeply unpleasant time: watching straight-faced news anchors broadcast from their homes, in front of their decorative rock collections, their wedding photos, and their psychedelic posters.
While some news anchors continue to beam into homes nationwide from formal studios, even as the number of deaths from COVID-19 double every three days, more—including the wonderful anchors on PBS News Hour—are broadcasting from home, standing in front of blank walls that producers (often also working from home) manipulate to look like “real” studios. You may not have been able to tell since he was standing in front of a stock photo of lower Manhattan, but MSNBC’s Ali Velshi reported live this week from his home for the first time in his three-decade career.
This feeble attempt at business as usual, though well-intentioned, must go. To hell with the over-pixelated images of twinkling skyscrapers and sepia-tone close-ups of cityscapes that networks think we want to see behind newscasters’ heads. Give us instead, Rachel Maddow’s breakfast nook. Let us see Jake Tapper’s man cave. Give us someone’s house cat crawling unexpectedly across a graphic comparing the S&P to the NASDAQ. Show us Ari Melber trying to conceal his irritation as someone in his house keeps flushing the toilet.
A true queen protects her health and works in front of a massive wine cooler.
When news anchors do broadcast from home—with no faux background or support team—it’s enchanting. As newscasters are, more than ever, the messengers of terrible tidings, feast your eyes on CNBC’s Bob Pisani’s lovingly framed Grateful Dead poster. Play I-Spy on Steve Liesman’s desk, covered in tangled wires and a TV remote. Luxuriate in Joy Reid’s tasteful bookshelf plants. Sure, Pisani, a financial reporter, is in the process of breaking down a graph enigmatically labeled “PIMCO SHORT MAT STRAT,” but I, a home-bound viewer, am focused on his free-standing shelving unit of carved Buddha figurines.
Robin Roberts, who has survived cancer and lives with a rare blood disorder, cited her underlying health conditions as one of the reasons she will be shooting *Good Morning America* from home. Not only is she practicing excellent social distancing behavior and offering a master class in speaking up for her needs, she is also modeling matching your top to your flower arrangement and broadcasting in front of what appears to be a wine storage cabinet. Roberts showed off a beautiful dog and a giant geode (which a surprising number of anchors seem to have—what’s up with the rocks, journalists?). Meanwhile, Today anchor Savannah Guthrie, taking precautions because of a cold, broadcast barefoot from her basement, with help from her husband. Her cohost Craig Melvin appeared on air from what looked like a hallway covered in palm-tree patterned wallpaper, featuring a Pinterest-y framed sign that reads, “Never Stop.”
Why go to the beach when you can go to Craig Melvin’s hallway?
It’s not as if gaining virtual access to people’s homes is difficult right now—thanks to round-the-clock Zoom meetings, I can identify each of my coworkers’ Brooklyn one-bedrooms blindfolded, just based on the footfalls of their partners on a walk to the bathroom. But that’s nothing compared to the strange pleasure I feel as I watch CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger analyze a White House briefing while sitting in front of a glorious built-in bookcase dotted with white pillar candles, decorative baskets, and a framed picture of a child. I even feel I understand Glenn Beck a little better now, as he insists, “Even if we all get sick, I would rather die than kill the country,” from what looks like his own basement in front of a landscape painting on a wooden easel. Meanwhile, for those bored in quarantine, here’s a game: Guess the square footage of Wilfred Frost’s apartment. Fun, right?
Sure, Frost has an Emmy in the background, but I don’t think he’s getting better square footage than me:
These sudden, mirage-like appearances of familiar talking heads in unfamiliar environments—several of which look like interview backdrops from Netflix’s *Tiger King*—are a delightful oddity in painfully odd times. Celebrities invite us into their homes all the time—most of us could freehand draw the architectural plans for the Kardashian-Wests’ estate, down to the contents of their vegetable drawer. But news anchors, who tend to keep more of a professional distance, have neither the time nor the taste for brutalist architecture required to stage their homes in time for their audience’s unexpected visits.
A peek inside Kim Kardashian West’s well-stocked cupboards is, at this point, hardly more exciting than a trip to the grocery store—stars have more or less agreed to trade access to their interiors for Instagram followers. Much better to see Andrew Ross Sorkin’s color-coded bookshelf (When I do it it’s “basic,” but when Andrew Ross Sorkin does it, it’s “cool” and “a good backdrop for an interview with Aperture Investors CEO Peter Krauss”). Reese Witherspoon has a large gilt-framed mirror and tasteful rustic home accessories? Shocker. I’d rather see *CBS This Morning* coanchor Anthony Mason prop a ring light on a shaky pile of books.
Even the anchor who is perhaps closest to celeb-status, Anderson Cooper, doesn’t appear thrilled with our sudden arrival—look at the vintage books, the dark wood, the lone Apple AirPod careening out of his ear—this is a man who has been forced, on short notice, to become a vlogger.
At some point the pandemic will lift and we will return to our offices. We will forget that, for a time, we stopped eating lunch out of Tupperware and inhaling the aromas of public transportation, and that we lived with daily, cataclysmic fear. Feeling at home in the world once again will be normal. But for now, we’ll take our modest thrills where we can find them, peeping into homes where we don’t quite belong, zooming in on silver-framed graduation photos, puzzling out whether a given reporter really read that book or just slipped it into the camera frame to seem worldly. The end of this crisis cannot come soon enough. I just hope I see Chuck Todd’s kitchen table first.
*Jenny Singer is a staff writer for* Glamour. You can follow her on Twitter.
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