It's likely CNN can't wait for 2010 to come to a close.
When Campbell Brown departed earlier this year, the cable network announced with much fanfare that the new Parker Spitzer, a kind of right vs. left on-air debate of current issues, would fill the vacant 8 PM slot. Journalist Kathleen Parker didn't cause a flurry, but eyebrows were raised over the hiring of Eliot Spitzer, the debauched former governor of New York, as co-host.
Now, only two months later, it seems Parker Spitzer has been something of a bust.
It's certainly not the show CNN had hoped for to "move truth forward," as CNN's new advertising slogan proclaims. In fact, ratings for the show are "stagnant," according to a New York Times report, exacerbated by "backstage tensions" that have supposedly caused a rift between the co-hosts.
Parker acknowledged that there was indeed "editorial and political tension," but Spitzer downplayed the situation with this retort to the Times: "I've seen tension in my life — conflict, tension, acrimony — and I haven't seen anything here that comes close to what I've seen."
Clearly, the format isn't unfolding the way it was envisioned. If anything, it has been a platform for the glib Spitzer, while Parker "can appear decidedly passive, almost meek," wrote Los Angeles Times media critic James Rainey.
A deeper problem, however, is the fact that neither Parker nor Spitzer were screen-tested before being tapped for the show. They were hired by Jonathan Klein, a CNN executive who is no longer with the company. The chemistry may just not be there.
CNN's woes, of course, are broader than Parker Spitzer alone. The 7 PM show, John King USA, isn't faring very well either, and the Larry King Live show at 9 PM will shortly lose its long-standing, namesake host. King will be replaced by journalist/TV personality Piers Morgan in mid-January.
The departures of Lou Dobbs last November, Christiane Amanpour in March and Campbell Brown in May and, more recently, the October firing of Rick Sanchez over controversial remarks have rocked CNN. Maybe they're trying to "move truth forward," but it seems they need to get their house in order first.
Meanwhile, the on-air shake-up continues, with Tony Harris stepping down and morning host John Roberts reportedly moving to Atlanta to join fiancee (and fellow CNN talent) Kyra Phillips. Perhaps Piers Morgan will give the brand that Ted Turner built the shot in the arm it needs to really take on Fox News. Stay tuned.