Wednesday, April 17
Nothing is more indicative of the screechy, high-stakes scratch fight between Fox News and CNN than the high-octane quotes that executives and spokespeople from the two networks are slinging at each other with growing frequency. Fox perfected the In-Your-Face Quote, of coursefor years, they’ve offered up supercharged barbs that seem stolen from Monday Night Nitro -but lately, previously prim CNN mouthpieces and executives have swerved off their high road to swipe back.
All of the chatter represents quite a change from the old wine ‘n’ cheese days of national news, where acknowledging your competition was considered unbecoming-something for the local TV yokels or the occasional Playboy interview. But Fox vs. CNN has become a verbal snake pit, a can-you-top-trash talk fest akin to media day before the Super Bowl.
So bring your thick skin and a thesaurus-here’s NYTV’s first-ever scorecard analysis of some of the recent and memorable tongue missiles in the Fox-CNN battle (with some shots from both at third-place MSNBC). To ensure proper judging, all quotes are taken from outside publications. Each quote is graded for its Yikes Factor (how shocking it was) and its Zing Impact (how hard it struck the competition), and those two numbers are added. Diminishing factors are subtracted from the total, that number is divided in half, producing the overall grade.
Here we go:
“Coming from a self-described news anchor that has on wine tasters and hypes Liza Minnelli’s wedding, people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. He seems to have become a legend in his own mind.”
Who said it: Fox spokeswoman Irena Steffen in the March 25 Philadelphia Inquirer , responding to CNN anchor Aaron Brown’s critique of Greta Van Susteren’s interview of Tonya Harding.
Yikes factor: 8 . Pretty nasty. Besides the sissy-boy implication, “self-described” news anchor ? Mr. Brown’s not exactly Andrea Thompson.
Zing impact: 4. Mr. Brown got some jabs in on Ms. Van Susteren, too.
Diminishing factor: Through Fox, Mr. Brown grabs the Cabernet- Cabaret crowd for eternity. Minus 2.
Overall rating: 5.
“Fox and CNN do different things. If you watch CNN, we have a full day of smart, hard newscasts that cover the world and break news daily.”
Who said it: CNN spokeswoman Christa Robinson to the Associated Press on Jan. 29, responding to word that Fox had passed it in the overall ratings.
Yikes factor: 3. That’s what you say when you’ve just gone from first to second.
Zing impact: 6. Between the lines, they’re saying Fox is for dopes.
Diminishing factor: Fox does have Geraldo. Minus 0.
Overall rating: 4.5
“Fox news considers her a lightweight. She’s the Anna Kournikova of TV news.”
Who said it: Fox spokesman Rob Zimmerman, discussing MSNBC’s Ashleigh Banfield in the Dec. 5 Washington Post.
Yikes factor: 8. Comparing the depth of a network news correspondent in a war zone to a championship-less Russian tennis babe? Class- y!
Zing impact: 5. Derogatory, and yet … strangely complimentary.
Diminishing factor: Fox would happily air Hannity & Colmes & Kournikova . Minus 4.
Overall rating: 4.5.
“[Roger Ailes] probably also believes he’s better looking than Tom Cruise.”
Who said it: Turner Broadcasting jefe Jamie Kellner in the Jan. 4 New York Times , responding to Fox News chairman Mr. Ailes’ contention that Fox would soon surpass CNN in ad revenue.
Yikes factor: 7. Executives bashing other executives’ looks! Yee-haw!
Zing impact: 8. CNN was fighting back.
Diminishing factor: Mr. Kellner ain’t Matthew McConaughey. Minus 2.
Overall rating: 6.5.
“I’m wondering if this is the same editorial independence they’re talking about when they didn’t cut from Olympics [curling] coverage to report the death of Daniel Pearl.”
Who said it: CNN’s Ms. Robinson to the A.P. on April 11, responding to MSNBC’s plans to editorially renew itself.
Yikes factor: 8 . You go! CNN’s really starting to take off the gloves.
Zing impact: 3 . But they’re kicking poor MSNBC! Give some of this smack to Fox!
Diminishing factor : A lot of CNN still feels like watching curling. Minus 2.
Overall rating: 4.5.
“I could have put a dead raccoon on the air this year and got a better rating than last year. That’s all just the growth of the network. All our shows are up.”
Who said it: Mr. Ailes in the Sept. 6 Times after firing Paula Zahn, who jumped to CNN.
Yikes factor: 9. The Gettysburg Address of Fox News zingers. Fox explained that Mr. Ailes wasn’t comparing Ms. Zahn to a dead raccoon-he was merely pointing out that Ms. Zahn’s ratings on Fox weren’t so hot considering the network’s overall boom. Oh, that must have made her feel mu-u-uch better.
Zing impact: 10. This thing was the talk of the town. People were aghast. Raccoons, too.
Diminishing factor: Fox’s suit against Ms. Zahn’s agent-the network contended the anchor violated her contract in talking to CNN-was tossed out by a judge. Minus 3.
Overall rating: 8.
The overall champion: Mr. Ailes. But Mr. Kellner is looking like a contender.
Meanwhile, a source reports that Connie Chung got up at an American Women in Radio and Television fête at Tavern on the Green on April 16 and sang the following lyrics to the tune of “I Enjoy Being a Girl”:
I’m strictly a female female / I’m the fox not on Fox TV / And some MSNBC male / Is about to get his butt scooped by a girl like me.
I don’t have the hair of Diane Sawyer / I don’t have the smile of Paula Zahn / I may not have Barbara Walters lawyer / But with Greta Van Susteren’s surgeon, I go on.
Is she going to sing every weeknight? Hope so. Tonight on Fox News, a calm Bill O’Reilly pledges to be the “voice of reason” between Fox and CNN. [FNC, 46, 8 p.m.]
Thursday, April 18
Speaking of TV news’ most quotable honchos, the business lost another big mouth-at least temporarily-when famously jabberjawed producer Steve Friedman announced his departure from the CBS Early Show . Mr. Friedman, who will leave May 31, will be replaced by Michael Bass, formerly of NBC’s Today .
Mr. Friedman’s decision to bail is not surprising. His partner in crime, Early Show co-anchor Bryant Gumbel, announced he was leaving April 4. Mr. Friedman and Mr. Gumbel, who worked together on Today , have been pals for 30 years. For Mr. Friedman, working without Bryant would have felt like John Oates singing without Daryl Hall.
“Nobody came in here and said to me, ‘You better go,’” said Mr. Friedman, who is 55. “It was the kind of thing where you meet on the couch and you look into each other’s eyes and say, ‘It’s time.’ There was nothing that precipitated this except Bryant leaving.”
Mr. Friedman leaves behind a show that, after a more than rocky start, has shown some ratings life lately, though it still places a distant third behind Today and ABC’s Good Morning America. Mr. Friedman had no comment on potential replacements for Mr. Gumbel, but said he thinks CBS needs to make a decision before the beginning of the fall season.
As for himself, Mr. Friedman said that when he leaves CBS, he intends to shape himself up-literally. Early rises and unhealthy breakfasts have apparently taken a toll.
“Here’s what I’m going to do,” Mr. Friedman said. “Wake up at 9, go to the gym, work out, lose this fat, but then go to lunch on all you guys.”
By “you,” Mr. Friedman was referring to TV writers. Mr. Friedman has established himself as something of a reporter’s delight, often offering free-flowing critiques of his business, and especially his competitors.
“You guys have a vested interest in making sure I get a new job!” Mr. Friedman roared. “Because you know whomever I’m against, I’ll be blasting the hell out of them .”
What about anchoring the CBS Early Show ? There’s an opening.
” Hahaha !” Mr. Friedman said. “Instead of losing 35 pounds, I’d have to lose 85 pounds.”
Today on the CBS Early Show , a lonely-looking Jane Clayson says: “Was it something I said ?” [WCBS, 2, 7 a.m.]
Friday, April 19
Leonard Nimoy has that disturbing version of “Proud Mary” that comes back to haunt him. Alyssa Milano is still tormented by those nudie photographs from Bikini magazine. Kevin Costner has The Postman , among other disasters. Now CNN’s Anderson Cooper has The Mole .
Mr. Cooper, the silver-topped son of Gloria Vanderbilt, who co-anchors American Morning alongside Paula Zahn and Jack Cafferty, left ABC News a year or so ago to host the reality-TV series, in which contestants try to stop a saboteur. At the time, Mr. Cooper took some heat, particularly from newsroom folk, who noted that because he was going to host a reality show, he’d never be able to return to the TV journalism business-since TV journalism, of course, has very, very high ethical standards about whom it hires.
But The Mole pretty much fell down a hole after one season, and after a trio of episodes from its second season bombed, it was generally agreed that the show was D.O.A. Mr. Cooper, meanwhile, proved the finger-wagging skeptics wrong by returning rather quickly to a high-profile TV slot on American Morning , CNN’s big-bucks a.m. yapper.
But just when Mr. Cooper was back as Super-Legitimate Journalist, here comes Mole II , like a career-rattling zombie from Night of the Living Dead . An ABC spokesperson said that this summer the network will air the remaining 10 spots of Mole Deux. Look for much breakfast-hour ridiculing from Mr. Cafferty and Ms. Zahn as the summer progresses.
Mr. Cooper, meanwhile, was traveling and unavailable for comment. Tonight on ABC, Barbara Walters, who knows something about doing two shows at the same time and rising above it all-just no cracks at the Inner Circle banquets, O.K.?-brings you 20/20 . [WABC, 7, 10 p.m.]
Saturday, April 20
We’ll admit to being a tad obsessive about the Metro Channel, which in the last year answered the question, What would happen if you built an entire network based around peppy New York City “lifestyle” programming and nobody watched it?
Yes, after a mega-hyped start, Metro’s stab at what was basically Time Out New York: The Channel! -Fashion! Film! Sports! Shopping! Sex!-crashed and burned. About a month ago, the network began turning to its Full Frontal Fashion couture show to fill in the empty air, and for several weeks Channel 70 has been running nonstop with emaciated supermodelia, like a Gisele Bundchen version of the WPIX Yule Log.
But here’s the news: Metro bigs say that now the whole dang network is going to be fashion-oriented with perhaps a sports or game show thrown into the mix. In Metro, New York City is getting its first-ever round-the-clock fashion channel.
“We’re hoping that it’s the brand that sticks,” said Metro’s senior vice president of programming and production, Patrice Andrews.
Hope so! If Metro undergoes another format overhaul, it’s going to resemble the time when our poor old friend M.C. Hammer tried to go gangsta by retitling himself “Hammer” and hopping around in a wool hat and football jersey.
But something had to change. Ms. Andrews said that Metro’s big push with the original lifestyle shows-headed by New York Central -was “quite ambitious,” not to mention pricey. “It was expensive; it was hard to equal advertising sales against the production budget,” she said.
Conversely, fashion programming is less expensive. Designers give you those perky catwalk reels for free, Ms. Andrews noted.
Still, Metro intends to do more than just cover fashion’s runways. Ms. Andrews said she wants the network to expand its clothes-horse coverage into other areas that appeal to everyday audiences, to “find a way to democratize fashion for Jane and John Q. Public.”
“Fashion is the second-largest industry in the New York metropolitan area,” Ms. Andrews said. The hope at Metro, she said, is that the fashion-intrigued crowd is broad enough that “there will be a good, strong audience.”
Otherwise, it’s bass-fishing shows all around! Tonight on Metro, get stitched on Full Frontal Fashion Weekly . [MET, 70, 8 p.m.]
Sunday, April 21
Tonight on MTV, a super-special preview of Dogtown and Z-Boys , quickly becoming the most overexposed skate-boarding documentary of all time. [MTV, 20, 9:30 p.m.]
Monday, April 22
Now MTV’s running this thing called The National Sex Quiz , in which it attempts to answer thorny-but-were-afraid-to-ask questions about pregnancy, contraceptives and S.T.D.’s. Remember kids: You can get pregnant from kissing someone in a bathing suit. [MTV, 20, 8 p.m.]
Tuesday, April 23
Tonight on TBS, first-round action from the NBA Playoffs . Ahh, who cares? [TBS, 8, 8 p.m.]
Follow Jason Gay via RSS.