'Parker Spitzer' Is a Bust, and CNN May Already Know It

Parker Spitzer on CNNTo say Parker Spitzer, CNN's new prime-time show starring former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and conservative writer Kathleen Parker, failed to win over critics from the start understates the matter. Go here or here for a survey of the reviews, which mostly focus on the forced chemistry between the two hosts and the jarring lack of flow between segments.

Of course, the critical response would be irrelevant if the show were attracting viewers, but at least on its first night, it didn't.

CNN, of course, says it's happy with the show and confident in its prospects, but there's reason to think the network is already quietly lining up the fire trucks next to the runway in expectation of a flameout. The major reason is the dismissal, two weeks ago, of network President Jonathan Klein who developed Parker Spitzer and also recruited British TV interviewer Piers Morgan to succeed Larry King.

Another Swing and Another Miss

I noted that the timing of Klein's ouster, coming before his newest shows had a chance to prove themselves, was curious, but CNN Worldwide President Jim Walton had an explanation: "We felt it was important to go ahead and make the move before we launched the new programs because we felt it was important not to have any disruption once the programs were on the air nor any seeming of dissatisfaction with the programs."

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Maybe. Or maybe, once Parker Spitzer went from concept to execution and Walton got his first look at the result in the days leading up to the launch, it became glaringly obvious that Klein had swung and missed yet again and it was past time to give someone else a shot. After all, the two hosts were chosen and announced without so much as a screen test being performed.

That's just a guess. Here's another one: It will be weeks, not months, before Klein's replacement, Ken Jautz, makes a significant change to Parker Spitzer's format. Several critics have said the dual-host thing is awkward and that Spitzer, the bigger name of the two, might fare better with a show of his own. (MSNBC's Morning Joe, which seems to be the loose model for Parker Spitzer, is built around a similar dyad, but it's clearly Joe Scarborough's show.) Don't be surprised if that's the direction Jautz takes it.
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