When it comes to morning TV, Higgins is 2012's comeback kid. After six years at KXAS/Channel 5, he left in early 2010 when he and the station couldn't agree on contract terms. He returned to the air in June of this year at KTVT/Channel 11, a station with a history of picking up talent from other DFW stations.
"I've got two boys, so the other option -- nights -- doesn't work for me," Higgins says. "You have to make really huge changes to your schedule. So for me, [returning] wasn't hard, because you get to spend a bunch of time with your kids."
Higgins was paired with new-to-the-market Adrienne Bankert, who came to North Texas from Sacramento's KCRA, where she had been since 2004, including six years of mornings. The duo faces a challenge of increasing the ratings for a show that has continually placed fourth in a tight morning race. But they say that allows them to take more chances, a lot of which comes in the form of Higgins' wisecracks about certain stories.
"We're aware of where we sit in [the ratings], but we've seen the progress that we've made in a short time," Bankert says. "I always say that between divine intervention and Brendan Higgins, we're doing a phenonemal job."
On whether they're really morning people
Bankert: No. [Laughs.] Not by nature. In fact, when I first started doing news, I was staying up till 4 in the morning and regularly waking up at, like, 9 or 10. But that was, what, nine years ago. So this has never been a natural thing, but I think personalitywise, you can just show more.
Higgins: The little pod where our producers and [crew] are -- they're all pretty fun people, so it kind of takes you out of what would normally be a very quiet, perhaps even sullen state of mind, and kind of propels you forward.
Bankert: You always lay out your clothes beforehand. There's a clothing calendar that I stick to ... so that I don't have to think when I wake up at, say, 1:45 or 2 in the morning. Sometimes I grab the Vitamix [blender], because recently, we started making smoothies in the newsroom. We come in around 3 o'clock and start going over scripts, and then there's hair and makeup, and then we're out the door and in the studio.
Higgins: I get up at 2. Most days, I can pretty much just splash water on my face, brush my teeth and then leave. It's that fast. My stuff's already in the car, and I just get an apple every day and eat that on the way. I get in at 3, and we tweak scripts and go online to see what stories are 'talkers.' Obviously, there are a lot of scripts, but at least 40 percent of the show is ad-lib, so you want to know more about the stories than you just glean from a script. And I spend maybe 10 minutes getting ready for air. I don't even have a comb. And I leave my ties here.
On their chemistry
Higgins: We're fairly opposite in a lot of ways, but temperamentally, I'd say we're fairly similar. [Chemistry] is always a worry, but [difficulties] haven't been there, not even a little bit.
Bankert: Neither of us drinks coffee.
Higgins: I never really have. I probably should, because over the years, everybody considered it a bad thing, and now it's got all of these [health benefits].
On the increasing importance of morning TV
Higgins: Since there's so many other choices, it's the one time of the day where we have sort of that captive audience, where everybody's getting ready, everybody wants to know what to do that day. And not everybody clicks on a device immediately when they get up. So you can get ready, you can listen to the parts that you're interested in, and the devices are there the rest of the day.
Bankert: I believe that even though most human beings in the culture are so media-savvy and so constantly bombarded by voices, whether it's in their car or their earbuds or on television, as soon as you wake up, you crave human interaction. TV is almost an automatic response to 'Let me see another human face.' So every day they're looking for someone they can be attracted to and have some sort of comfort level with, and that, to me, is the morning news' job.
What happens when the show is over
Bankert: We have cut-ins every half-hour during the CBS national show. And we still have shoots to do because we still do stories that we anchor in the morning. And then we have a public-affairs show that we do once a week, so one of us has to read up on that.