×

TV Review: ‘Crossfire’

The new "Crossfire" looks a lot like the old one, mirroring ESPN more than news

With:

With: Newt Gingrich, Stephanie Cutter

In the small-victory department, the premiere of “Crossfire” didn’t produce the kind of cross-talk squabbling apt to give “The Daily Show” fodder to tee off on the CNN revival — yet, anyway. Still, just based on the look, style and graphics, it’s hard to escape a feeling the news network is aping the format of ESPN’s round-table-type afternoon discussion shows — only here, chewing over possible military action in Syria instead of trade deadlines and the baseball or NFL playoff picture.

Stephanie Cutter and Newt Gingrich — half of the show’s left-right hosting nexus, along with Van Jones and S.E. Cupp — launched the franchise Monday by hosting two U.S. senators, Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ). Neither was what you would call a natural in the hosting role, underscoring the difference between guesting as a talking head and actually having to function as a TV personality.

Somewhat unexpectedly, Cutter was the more aggressive interviewer in pressing Paul on his resistance to U.S. strikes in Syria, while the former Speaker of the House, Gingrich, seemed uncharacteristically restrained. Usually a vociferous critic of the media (including, it should be noted, CNN), Gingrich came across as more sarcastic than anything else, while letting Menendez provide what in TV terms were unusually long, uninterrupted answers.

Frankly, the fast-moving nature of news surrounding Syria — including Russia’s possible intercession to defuse the situation — somewhat clouded the conversation, and left the four finding common ground on certain points. “Even though I know this is supposed to be ‘Crossfire,’ maybe we can all agree” on the advantage of having Russia intervene, Paul said, almost apologetically. (Helpfully, he also kept sipping from his big “CNN” mug.)

Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with trying to bring the give-and-take of the Sunday-morning talk shows to a CNN weekday lineup hungry for attention-getting programs. Still, everything about the presentation of “Crossfire” suggests despite the commitment to an evenhanded approach, this is more about showbiz than politics — policy debate as verbal wrestling.

In what amounts to an attempt, perhaps, to turn down the partisan heat a few degrees, the show closed with a segment titled “Ceasefire,” in which the two hosts — while still sniping — sought to find an area of agreement.

The new “Crossfire” will clearly need some time to work out the kinks, finding a balance between keeping the discourse civil and producing enough fireworks to make the exchanges entertaining, if not especially newsworthy. Even so, the show shouldn’t have much trouble attracting newsmakers, and there’s no debating the central part of the equation — namely, nothing on TV is cheaper than four people sitting around and arguing.

Popular on Variety

TV Review: 'Crossfire'

(Series; CNN, Mon. Sept. 9, 6:30 p.m. ET)

Cast:

With: Newt Gingrich, Stephanie Cutter

More TV

  • T.J. Dillashaw, right, kicks Cody Garbrandt

    Disney Plans UFC Broadcast for FX

    UFC matches will return to FX  – but not on a permanent basis. ESPN has been showing preliminary bouts to UFC pay-per-view events for the last while on ESPN and ESPN2, and then showing the main card on its ESPN+ subscription video service. In September, the early lineup will air on FX, which the UFC [...]

  • George RR Martin

    George R.R. Martin Says HBO's 'Game of Thrones' Ending Won't Influence Future Novels

    Geroge R.R. Martin is sticking to his original plan when it comes to the future of “Game of Thrones.” In an interview with The Observer, Martin claimed that HBO’s controversial ending for the series would have no affect on the endings of the last two novels. “No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t change anything at all,” [...]

  • Listen: 'Pennyworth' Producer Talks Delving into

    Listen: 'Pennyworth' Executive Producer Talks Delving into Alfred's Backstory

    Bruno Heller may have served as an executive producer on the Batman-inspired series “Gotham” for the past five years, but it’s actually real-life people (not superheroes) that intrigue the producer the most. It’s for that exact reason that Heller’s newest series finds him exploring the origin stories of Batman’s butler Alfred in the Epix drama [...]

  • "Trust Issues" - Dylan and Lizzie

    'Instinct' Canceled After Two Seasons

    CBS has canceled “Instinct” after two seasons. Series creator Michael Rauch announced the cancellation Friday on Twitter, writing, “I’m very sad to relay the news that @instinctcbs won’t be renewed for a 3rd season. We will double up this Sunday and our season/series finale will be Aug 25.” Rauch also thanked series stars Alan Cumming [...]

  • Maisel Day

    My Mostly OK Maisel Day (Column)

    When Amazon announced its first-ever Maisel Day, I was intrigued. For one day, Aug. 15, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” fans and Angelenos (fangelenos?) could hit up various restaurants, theaters and retailers throughout Los Angeles for special deals, all at 1959 prices. Among the gems: $2.50 makeovers, $0.99 pastrami sandwiches and $0.30 for a gallon of [...]

  • Nordisk Film & TV Fond Announces

    Nordisk Film & TV Fond Backs Joachim Trier, Ole Bornedal, Yellow Bird

    Nordisk Film & TV Fond has announced three features, two series and a documentary set to receive $1.4m in financing, as well as distribution, dubbing and cultural initiative support recipients. Doing so, it highlights some of the key titles moving forward in the Nordic region. Already backed by the Danish Film Institute’s largest ever grant [...]

  • TV News Roundup: 'Silicon Valley' Final

    TV News Roundup: 'Silicon Valley's' Final Season Sets October Premiere Date

    In today’s roundup, “Silicon Valley” returns to HBO on Oct. 27 and Quibi greenlights a new cooking competition show “Dismantled.” DATES The fifth season of Netflix‘s “Peaky Blinders” will premiere on the streamer Oct. 4. The newest season will continue to follow one gangster family in the lawless streets of Birmingham, UK during the midst [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content