Just sat through the premiere of CNN's "Parker Spitzer," and boy, am I ever exhausted.
Pairing former New York governor Eliot Spitzer and Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker — he's left, she's right; he got caught with hookers, she writes for a newspaper and thus can't afford to pay for sex — certainly must have sounded like a good idea. And it still might be. But Monday's premiere, at least, was a steaming mess.
That's because the show was far too intent on promoting rapid-fire "His Girl Friday"-type banter, at the expense of the intelligent conversation that CNN advertised. It was over-produced, with too many guests and segments. And while seeking to be congenial isn't bad, it was often too cute by half.
That was especially true of Parker's "opening argument" regarding Sarah Palin, which she closed by winking at the camera. Parker looks good on camera (unlike a lot of print journalists), and I get that she was spoofing Palin, but here's a tip: People seeking to launch new talkshows should not wink. Ever.
"This is a show about ideas," Spitzer said, right before his opening argument.
But then they threw to their first guests, and there were certainly no new ideas there. Liberal columnist Thomas Frank and conservative provocateur Andrew Breitbart? That's there version of "Crossfire" for a new show? Yawn.
There were other miscalculations, including the distracting practice of running little promos across the bottom of the screen for interviews still to come. "Later on Parker Spitzer: Aaron Sorkin Lets Loose." Really? How do you know? Was it taped in advance? (Yes, it turns out.) And how much of this crap do we have to sit through until he does? Mostly, you're telling us stick in there — the show's going to get better! To which I would normally say (were I not committed to reviewing the premiere all the way through), Zap. See ya.
What should have been the key interview, with Elizabeth Warren, followed the misguided opening. She was fine, but it was Sorkin who made news, such as it was, by calling Palin "an idiot," and taking umbrage at the former Alaska governor's not-so-subtle questioning of the left's patriotism.
"The Democrats may have moved into the center, but the Republicans have moved into a mental institution," Sorkin quipped, while suggesting execs at Sony — which is distributing "The Social Network" — were no doubt having a heart attack.
Hey, given CNN's ratings, not to worry, Aaron!
But that interview ended just when it was getting interesting. And the show closed with by far its most embarrassing few minutes — a wacky roundtable billed as the "Political Party," which had all the depth of "Best Week Ever." If this is the face of the new CNN — a cross between VH1 and E! News — then God help us all.
By the way, "PS," one last bit of advice: Get a hyphen. At least something on this show ought to make sense.