About that new Soledad O’Brien Pilot…

Page Six in its story on CNN looking for something new at 7pm, mentioned that CNN would be shooting a second pilot with Soledad O’Brien. That pilot was shot yesterday in CNN’s studios in the Time Warner Center in New York.

ICN got a pretty detailed breakdown of what happened during this pilot taping and I’m going to share what I can with you because we don’t usually get this kind of peek into the world of the cable news pilot. This information comes mostly un-confirmed. CNN doesn’t comment on pilots but I do have evidence I cannot reveal which does buttress a lot of what I’m about to relay.

The pilot was shot in the Piers Morgan Tonight studio in front of a studio audience that was sort of led to believe that this would be for a special to air at a later date even though this clearly was a pilot. I’m not sure why the studio audience. CNN seems to be much more obsessed with studio audiences than FNC or MSNBC but for what purpose? There wasn’t really any studio audience interaction save for a couple of plants, one of which was a spokesperson for a Republican women’s group.

The format of the show was your typical segment based show with a different topic for each segment:

Segment 1 – Brian Flynn, brother of a man who was killed in the Pan Am Lockerbie bombing talking about Libya and Moussa Koussa’s defection to England.

Segment 2 – Ilyasah Shabazz, daughter of Malcom X, discussing the new book on her late father “Malcom X – A Life of Reinvention”.

Segment 3 – Donald Trump via phone in what was easily the highlight segment of the show. O’Brien allegedly went hard at Trump over his Birther allegations and things became rather contentious with both Trump and O’Brien allegedly telling each other that they were wrong and then Trump apparently tried to change the subject to China and O’Brien reportedly countered that China wasn’t the reason people are supporting him in the polls. Hot stuff. The fact that this was a phone interview probably reduced the impact of the interview somewhat but I have to think CNN is a little bummed this interview occurred during a pilot as it easily would have been plastered all over CNN.com and probably would have been picked up by other outlets.

Segment 4 – Kimora Lee Simmons and Dr. Drew Pinsky via satellite talking about padded bikinis, make-up for 8 year olds, and the breastfeeding doll.

Segment 5 – Set change as couches are brought in and the small table and stools that had been on the set previously are removed. O’Brien discussed with two guests on stage and four middle aged royal wedding groupies, who had attended Charles and Diana’s wedding and are going to this one too, why some Americans care and others don’t.

According to reports ICN has received, some segments went over a lot better than others, particularly the Trump interview. But I wouldn’t read too much more into it than that. Cable News pilots, more so than their Entertainment counterparts, are notable for being jagged, rough, and inconsistent. And even when shows go from pilot to launch, they tend to still be jagged, rough, and inconsistent on debut. The question that CNN must answer as it reviews this pilot is whether this format of show, one which sounds eerily similar to one CNN has tried to use numerous times at 8pm the past decade (minus the studio audience), is the right way to go.

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9 Responses to “About that new Soledad O’Brien Pilot…”

  1. wheresthebeef09 Says:

    Sounds more awful than I could have ever imagined. A mish-mash of subjects, most of them a bore, with a host that can put anyone to sleep.

    In other words – CNN will be picking this up.

  2. I think you need to stop thinking so optimistically. It’s clouding your vision…

  3. Keep in mind that for a news pilot, everyone tests a spectrium of differnet segments with the host/show to see what works best. When there’s already a million formats of cable news shows and a game that’s already been established, a show with news meets humanities type stories is not a bad idea. The fact that CNN has two poor political shows on back to back with usa and spitzer is pathetic. I think Piers is doing ok, but they should hire Couric as Larry’s replacement, and allow piers to be himself more. Right now they had Piers trying to fulfill Larry’s general talk show role. Couric’s only and best quality is interviewing. Time Warner should pony up the money and allow her to contrube to 60 minutes.

  4. Couric could probably make more money with a syndicated show. Hiring her would have been a good idea a year ago when CNN was teetering on the brink. They hired Mr. Morgan and invested a lot in his show. They won’t throw him overboard. His show is actually doing pretty well.

  5. Yea, I meant that they should keep piers as well, but from a producer’s perspective their holding him back. The 9PM hour by CNN is a standard interview show that pleases middle america. I feel like they constrain him to a degree, by boxing him in and not letting him have an opinion on his show. Take a look at his twitter. It’s more lively than his show. CNN could easily bring Couric on at , and move him back an hour and let him loosen up.

  6. harry1420 Says:

    so capricex, you want cnn to copy what fox is doing? fact: cnn will not pull in the eyeballs that watch fox or msnbc. so does cnn do opinon and alienate the audience it has? folks watch cnn because its less opinion/commentary/talk radio on tv/yacking and yelling. if you want all that just turn to fox or msnbc!

  7. Harry,

    I agree with your statement about ratings and audience. As someone who has produced shows with talent for years, I can tell that he is forced to be guarded in his role as the network’s General interviewer. In the world of worlds it would’ve been better for Couric to have the role because that’s what she’s good at doing. Her interview web series is even more regarded than her evening news stint. Hence why there’s rumors that she might also do a deal with aol for projects on the side.

    I think Piers show is good, and I think one network without shouting is fresh air so don’t get me wrong. But I think for CNN to tout in the ad campaign that he’s going to sir the pot up, but then just do the usual motions of the interview talk show is why it’s not doing better. To the American people he’s not a figure involved with American politics, so he can be opinionated in things beyond politics and not be piegoned holed into that group. For example if you seen him do his press tours on talk shows he’s more of himself. On his twitter account he goes after people. But when he hosts that show it’s Larry King hour, because that’s what’s demanded of that hour. But I bet you if you moved him out from that generalized role of being Larry’s successor and had him host an hour on his terms at 10PM then you would see a even better show.

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