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In part, this is due to the territory he covers. Entertainment journalism, though it continues to occupy a greater and greater time slice of most traditional newscasts, is still not regarded as a serious pursuit. In addition, there is the matter of Tesh's appearance. Admittedly, he lacks the presidential cragginess of Rather, the shrewd-but-approachable demeanor of Brokaw, or even the crusader-zealousness of Geraldo Rivera. When people see Tesh's blonde hair, his orangish, make-upy tan and teeth the color of radioactive snow, they immediately discount his intellectual abilities and attribute his position as the Founding Father of infotainment to the favorable way TV studio lighting models the generous contours of his face.

Even so, itís not his looks, but his manner, that does the greatest damage to his credibility. Every successful TV personality exhibits one variety of smoothness or another: even "real people" like TV Nation's Michael Moore or willfully abrasive ones like Howard Stern keep the words and images flowing in a way that your local cable-access doofus simply cannot approximate. Tesh, however, is pure cathode margarine. He blends seamlessly into the television landscape. His voice is pleasingly authoritative, but emotion, and even perspective, are absent from it. More than anything, Tesh has a kind of numbing affability. In his easy grin and opinion-free commentary, one senses a facile hand-shaker, a protean careerist adopting guise after convenient guise in his obtusely ambitious, blandly obsessive pursuit of Show Business Success.

But can he really be dismissed so easily? While at first glance Tesh may indeed appear as flat as the television screens that project him into our consciousness, the man has real, multi-faceted, undeniable depth. It's not for nothing that his most die-hard fans refer to him as the Vanilla Volcano. One way to gauge his impact on our lives is to ask yourself if you can come up with the name of the guy--a kind of brunette Tesh wannabe--who fills in for John on his days off.