Parker Spitzer: 70’s Late Night Crashes into Morning Show, Comes to Primetime…

When CNN first announced that Eliot Spitzer would be paired with Kathleen Parker for a new 8pm ET show which wouldn’t be Crossfire, I said nothing. When CNN announced that the show would be called Parker Spitzer and Spitzer’s name would be second, I said nothing. When article after article started popping up in the press concerning promoting this new show, I said nothing. I’ve waited until the show actually launched. You never really know what’s going to happen for sure until you really see it. Well having really seen it now, I can safely say Ken Jautz has his work cut out for him to say the least.

Let’s get this out of the way first. Parker Spitzer is not Crossfire reborn; at least not most of the time. But that’s about the one positive thing I can say about this show. What Parker Spitzer is though looks like the result of a bizarre collision betwen 1970’s Late Night TV (think Tom Snyder’s Tomorrow Show) and 1980s era Regis and Kathie Lee as portrayed by James Carville and Mary Matalin.

Have you ever seen Carville and Matalin together and left unchecked? They come across as this overly chummy pair (they’re married after all) but with vastly differing opinions. While the opinions of Parker Spitzer are not as divergently extreme as Carville and Matalin the clumsly chumminess is out in force. Parker and Spitzer have never been paired together before but you wouldn’t know it from watching them.

This characteristic is reinforced by the format CNN has chosen for the two. I said Regis and Kathie Lee and the description totally fits, but not in a good way. It’s oil and water, a chemistry that looks awkward on TV even though it isn’t supposed to be and in reality probably isn’t. Eliot you’re totally wrong but that’s okay, I like you, I really like you. Painful.

To further muddle Parker Spitzer is an air of 1970’s late night which hits the viewer before either Parker and Spitzer start talking. CNN has bizarrely chosen a laid back cool jazz theme for the program, something one would have expected from 1970’s late night TV and not 2010 cut throat in your face cable news primetime; a very odd juxtaposition. Even some of the segments come across like late night: Spitzer and Henry Blodget in a showdown segment which put the anti in the term anti-showdown, the segment with Aaron Sorkin which left me asking the question why was Sorkin booked in the first place, and the group party segment at the end. Boring wouldn’t begin to describe these segments, painful is a much better adjective.

Parker Spitzer is woefully short on ideas and long on enthusiasm. The enthusiasm is there but right from the top Parker Spitzer run home to what they’re already known for; Parker railing on Sarah Palin and Spitzer railing on Wall Street. We already know what they think about those subjects. Tell us something we don’t know. Give us a reason to tune in.

To further complicate things, the first roundtable segment harkened back to the worst of Crossfire; crosstalk so bad that I would give up trying to keep track of who was saying what. And the show is edited. Heavily edited. There is almost no flow inside the individual segments nor from segment to segment.

People are going to lay the blame for Parker Spitzer on Jon Klein’s doorstep but it’s far more complicated than that. If Klein had been allowed to program CNN primetime the way he had wanted to, Keith Olbermann could have been a CNN employee for years now and CNN would likely be facing a totally different future than it is today. No, the reason we have Parker Spitzer is because of the influence of a different CNN employee; Jim Walton. Walton stopped Klein from hiring Olbermann. It’s Walton that doesn’t want to “betray” CNN’s legacy. Who knows what other ideas Klein came up with which Walton nixed? So Walton boxes in Klein and Klein is left to try and jumpstart CNN prime by trying to work within the Walton framework and we get this mess called Parker Spitzer.

Well, Klein is gone now. And Parker Spitzer debuts with a colossal thud. Now what Jim?

13 Responses to “Parker Spitzer: 70’s Late Night Crashes into Morning Show, Comes to Primetime…”

  1. OK Spud, I guess we can put you down as ‘undecided’.

  2. Not sure. Let me get back to you after I make up my mind…

  3. Just started my recording of this mess. There’s no way I’ll make it through the whole hour. Who’s idea was it to have them sitting so close? They keep leaning back just to have enough distance to face each other. And Parker immediately launched into the flirty/chummy thing that showed up in the ads and Spud’s ealier Parker/Spitzer post. I stand by my earlier comment: much to my amazement, Parker is the one that makes the whole thing ceepy. Sanchez! We forgive you!

  4. Why is she laughing? Parker came out of the break into the Our Political Party (ugh) segment laughing at..something. Oh man this is truly, unprecendentedly horrible..and mostly because of Kathleen Parker, a person I’ve always liked on television.

  5. chipsohio Says:

    I just finished watching the show and it’s horrible. However, in Fritz’s tradition I’ll watch it on delay for a week & see if there’s any improvement.

    That being said…the show (in its current form) is awful.

  6. She exudes…compromise. In every sense of the word.

  7. Like Spud, I tried not to say anything. I tried to give it a shot. But I knew it wouldn’t work with Parker as the conservative, because she hates Sarah Palin. When she let a guest call Palin an idiot with no response she lost every conservative who was giving the show a chance. Parker just doesn’t get it. She needs to put her Palin hate away if she wants the show to succeed. Sarah Palin is now woven into all parts of the right. If you bash Palin, you’re bashing everyone right of center. Even Keith Olbermann keeps it to a segment. If it permeates the entire show, they will only have viewers who’s cable systems don’t carry MSNBC.

  8. She can’t give that up. That’s what makes her the good conservative. The well-bred, reasonable one.

  9. Sarah Palin is now woven into all parts of the right.

    Which is ridiculous. The woman. Is as dumb. As a shoe.

  10. I expected to hate the show, so I’m surprised that I liked it more than I thought I would. I thought it was ironic, though, when Ms. Parker complained about Sarah Palin being too flirtatious. Pot meet kettle, you know.

  11. Pot meet kettle, you know.

    YES! That was was multi-levels of ironically weird.

  12. It’s like, you expect him to be sleazy, so he manages to undershoot the target. The fact that she goes out-of-her-way to be, um, nice to him is just…eww.

  13. I watched the first minute tonight. That’s it, the end, party over. Any qualms I had about Eliot Spitzer – and I had an open mind because he wasn’t bad on MSNBC – are completely overshadowed by my distaste for Kathleen Parker. I don’t know where she got the idea that “giggly schoolgirl” was a good idea for this format, but she’s crazy. A word I’ve never used for a cable news show before: gross.

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