Wednesday, June 26
MTV paid the Ozzy Osbourne brood $20 million for a second season of The Osbournes , but you can get a perfectly wacky television show for just $2 million. That’s what CNN is reportedly paying Connie Chung to host Connie Chung Tonight , a thoroughly curious prime-time news hour that made its debut June 24.
The stakes are high for Ms. Chung’s program, of course, and you could feel a sense of urgency building right up until 8 p.m. on Monday, when the host appeared, live from Sixth Avenue, behind the counter of what looked to be a very spiffy Orange Julius. Orange is the color for Connie Chung Tonight -you can just see some Turner executive sitting in pre-production, saying ” Orange … equals … hot “-but this was color run amok, from the orange graphics to Ms. Chung’s orange dress to the big, orange forest fire that was the fortuitous lead story of the day. By the program’s end, there was such an orange haze that you expected Ms. Chung to peel off an orange slice and whittle herself a set of teeth, like Marlon Brando in The Godfather .
Connie Chung Tonight is, as expected, CNN 2.0, CNN supercharged: It’s shiny and bright, bold and Bruckheimerian. Story headers appear in italicized block letters, like Jean-Claude Van Damme films, and news bulletins come with their own sound effects, like cherry treats in PacMan. Ms. Chung may have pledged at the end of her debut telecast that she was “not going to yell,” but stylistically her show is already about as loud as a frilly pink tuxedo.
The bigger problem is that Connie Chung Tonight doesn’t suit Ms. Chung’s own style. As a newsperson, she’s always been polite and approachable; Ms. Chung can be forceful, but she’s hardly what you’d call brash. The gimmickry of Connie Chung Tonight threatens to undercut Ms. Chung’s principal asset, which is the up-close, newsy, intimate interview. She had one Monday night, with Paul Weiser, the man Dear Abby turned in to the police after he wrote to her about his pedophilic urges. Ms. Chung handled the delicate interview skillfully-and, impressively, straight down the middle-but the show cheesed it up with its hammy graphics and voice-overs. Given a good, topical story, they made it look like something out of A Current Affair . (Not all of Ms. Chung’s interviews hit, however. Her distracted query of Daily Show imp Jon Stewart-misspelled in the teaser as “John Stewart”-was one of the least-funny appearances of Mr. Stewart’s career.)
People like Connie Chung, and famously so, but Connie Chung Tonight doesn’t capitalize on this likability. Instead, buzz-crazed CNN has dressed her up in a garish program that seems designed not only for a new cable news network, but also for someone other than the woman who lent it her name. The network may say, “This is CNN.” Sure. But right now, Connie Chung Tonight ain’t Connie Chung. [CNN, 10, 8 p.m.]
Thursday, June 27
Last week, before her show launched, Ms. Chung told NYTV she was tickled to be joining CNN, calling it the “last sanctuary for news.”
“I have been in the TV magazine world for many years, and the whole pendulum swung toward tabloid sensationalism,” Ms. Chung said, not breaking any news there. “I don’t denigrate it. There were many stories that I did that I might not have wanted to do, or may not have been my choices, but I did them.
“I don’t think there is anything so awful about tabloid stories,” she continued. “It depends on how you present them. So what’s refreshing is that the CNN viewer is a news viewer. CNN traditionally does not have to swing toward the tabloids to get the viewers to watch.”
Obviously, Ms. Chung missed the Ripley’s Believe It or Not episode of Larry King Live with the freaky dude who tattooed his face and inserted whiskers so he looked like a big kitty. But it’s true that Ms. Chung will be allowed to sink her teeth into more substantive stories, especially breaking ones.
She will also be looking to deliver the “get” interview. That’s been Ms. Chung’s calling card, landing the newsmakers-Gary Condit et al.-all of her competitors are chasing after.
Who is the big get right now?
“Osama bin Laden,” Ms. Chung said. “Saddam Hussein. I don’t mean to be facetious here, but the Pope. That’s sort of the running joke-do you want the Pope? But at this particular time, yes.”
Ms. Chung said she tried to get Mr. Condit to sit down for Round 2 after Chandra Levy’s body was found. But surprise, surprise, Camp Condit wasn’t biting.
“I called everyone I could think of,” she said, referring to Mr. Condit’s posse. “Only one of them took my call.”
Ms. Chung was unworried at suggestions that her show might step on Larry King’s toes, since both are interview-oriented. She said Connie Chung Tonight intends to be a more intimate, personal interview program, focusing on the human side of current news.
She was also tickled about the June 17 launch party CNN threw for her at the “21″ Club. There, she enjoyed what she described as a “gracious” appearance by long-legged Fox News competitor Bill O’Reilly. Did she consider Mr. O’Reilly her rival?
“I see my competition as being every news organization,” Ms. Chung said.
Tonight on The O’Reilly Factor , the always-opportunistic Mr. O’Reilly begins with a knock-knock joke. “Knock-knock. Who’s there? Orange. Orange who? Orange ya glad Connie Chung did a .9?” [FNC, 46, 8 p.m.]
Friday, June 28
So while Ms. Chung has moved into a new CNN set in the Sixth Avenue Time Inc. building, Paula Zahn is still waiting for hers. There was speculation that Ms. Zahn’s American Morning program would begin in its midtown fishbowl in early summer-the network wants to put a little streetside zip into the show-but a CNN spokesperson said the show is now set to debut its new studio “when it’s complete sometime in August.”
Did they run out of orange paint? Here’s another question: What will come first, the Sixth Avenue premiere of American Morning , or the premiere of Miramax’s Gangs of New York ? Today on American Morning , Ms. Zahn says she’s partial to a “light mauve, or perhaps burnt umber.” [CNN, 10, 7 a.m]
Saturday, June 29
Anyone who watches Fox News knows what a bunch of natty fashion plates those troops are-Roger Ailes must make someone from his second-floor gang hijack a tractor-trailer bound for Moe Ginsburg every couple of months and tell the driver: “Gimme everything that’s silk and shiny.”
So it’s not surprising that Fox News is trying to share some of its sartorial splendor with us plain folk. The FNC accouterment of choice, natch, is a tie-from the S.M. Reinhardt “You Decide” collection-and the Fox brass sent over a trio of its fancy cravats the other day. Included: a yellow tie with “Fox News” written in a plaid pattern; a light blue “Fair and Balanced” tie with a double-beam balance graphic (Get it? Fox is balanced!); and a very navy, very odd O’Reilly Factor tie that seems to have a big angry Bill O’Reilly fish devouring a little kingfish (Get it? Larry King-fish!).
NYTV correspondent Noelle Hancock wandered out into die-to-shop Madison Avenue the other day with these three ties, and here’s a sampling of the responses she got:
“Fox should stick with the news. The O’Reilly tie is a blatant PacMan rip-off.”
-Robin Smith, 47, Boston
“There’s something quite nasty going on with that plaid one. It rather scares me.”
-Wilhelm James, 38, London
“I like the one with the scales because I’m a Libra!”
-Hirian Asencio, 24, Manhattan
“The yellow tie is fun in a retro way. It’s edgy. I think the little kiddies with their tightish pants and orange hair and what-have-you would wear it.”
-Luca Rensi, 34, Los Angeles
“The Larry King/O’Reilly tie with the fish is a little esoteric. But I’d buy all three of them just to support Fox.”
-David Loeb, 55, Miami, Fla.
Well, there you go, Fox. Today on Fox, Neil Cavuto dons black sunglasses and fans himself like Karl Lagerfeld. Cavuto Business Report . [FNC, 46, 10:30 a.m.]
Sunday, June 30
* Tonight on Inside the Actors Studio , James Lipton curls up into the lap of Benicio Del Toro. [BRAV, 38, 8 p.m.]
Monday, July 1
Chop, chop, chop! That was some nutty a.m. TV on Tuesday, June 25, when C.E.O.-under-a-cloud Martha Stewart plopped down for her regular kitchen appearance on the CBS Early Show , but not before some gentle grilling by E-show co-host Jane Clayson.
The Early Show is part of CBS News, of course, so they couldn’t let Ms. Stewart just show up and make her cold peanut noodle salad without asking her a few questions about the ongoing insider-trading questions swirling around her.
But this may have been the first time Ms. Clayson interviewed a subject with a giant knife in her hand. Yup, CBS decided to ask the ImClone questions at Ms. Stewart’s kitchen set, and you didn’t need to be a psychologist to think that Ms. Stewart was working out some aggression during Ms. Clayson’s questioning by chopping the heck out of a cabbage.
“I’m just not at liberty to make any comments whatsoever,” Ms. Stewart said. And then: Chop, chop, chop!
Ms. Clayson did a decent job under very strange circumstances, keeping the heat on Ms. Stewart when it was clear the lifestyle guru would have preferred to be doing anything else, even microwaving Hot Pockets. Ms. Stewart did go on about her battles with the media and her expectation that she will be “exonerated,” but then she said firmly: “I want to focus on my salad.” Chop, chop, chop!
Ms. Clayson then segued Ms. Stewart-and it was some segue-toward her orzo salad with carrots and dill.
A CBS News spokesperson said that Ms. Stewart will remain a contributor to The Early Show , but the network will continue to follow the ImClone stock investigation. “We are covering the story; we have been pretty aggressively,” the spokesperson said.
Today on The Early Show , Ms. Clayson announces that all guests will now be asked to use plastic cutlery. [WCBS, 2, 7 a.m.]
Tuesday, July 2
More Fox News ties commentary:
“The one with the fish eating each other is a little violent for me. But, then, I’m a vegetarian.”
-Tish Craine, 26, Rockford, Ill.
“Oh my God. I don’t even know what to say. All I know is I wouldn’t want my husband to be a walking advertisement for the news. The yellow tie looks like he’s wearing a news ticker around his neck!”
-Lynne Thierry, 37, Long Island
“The one with the scales blows. It’s the kind of tie a lawyer would wear, and I’m no lawyer. “
-Dave Hankey, 29, Queens
Tonight on Fox News, Greta Van Susteren unveils her On the Record with Greta Van Susteren Easter bonnet. [FNC, 46, 10 p.m.]
Wednesday, July 3
Warm up for Independence Day by watching Mel Gibson kick the redcoat extras in the bloated epic The Patriot. [HBO, 32, 11:35 p.m.]
Thursday, July 4
Institutional-plug alert! Observer columnist Richard Brookhiser examines the Father of Our Country tonight in the PBS special Rediscovering George Washington . Alas, Mr. Brookhiser did not consult NYTV’s second-grade book report on Mr. Washington, considered by many to be the seminal analysis of our first President. [WNET, 13, 9:30 p.m.]
Friday, July 5
If you’re looking for your interns this summer, they might be shirking fax-machine duty by hiding in the Museum of Television and Radio, which is launching a lunchtime retrospective series starting July 10 featuring college-friendly fare like MTV’s Jon Stewart Show , Strangers with Candy , and the unaired Jack Black–Owen Wilson pilot Heat Vision and Jack. Everyone who sits through an entire M.T.R. goldbricker’s lunch gets a coupon for a free cookie from Au Bon Pain (sandwich and drink purchase required). Burp!
Tonight on TNT, When Harry Met Sally , a movie that should have a retrospective, and then be buried six miles underground with a cubic ton of plutonium. [TNT, 3, 8 p.m.]
Saturday, July 6
Tonight, watch the Saturday Night Live repeat with the Rock and Andrew W.K., and then go run out into the street and rip somebody’s arm off. [WNBC, 4, 11:30 p.m.]
Sunday, July 7
Tonight, the WE Channel goes national with Single in the City , which loyal Metro Channel watchers will recognize as To Live and Date in New York , that sometimes infuriating yet oddly riveting series about Manhattan manhunters on the prowl. Only a true New York masochist would saddle up for the WE run-Metro’s been replaying this thing like Tom & Jerry cartoons for months and months-but WE big Martin Von Ruden thinks there’s an audience out yonder. “We think there will be a big appetite for this show when you get out of New York,” Mr. Von Ruden said, calling Single in the City “outrageous, real, tantalizing, titillating and sometimes a little scary.” [WE, 59, 8 p.m.]
Monday, July 8
On TBS tonight, Cocktail . Hold on for the scene where Tom Cruise hops up on the bar and recites poetry. You forgot about that, didn’t you? [TBS, 8, 8 p.m.]
Tuesday, July 9
A Fox couture finale!
“The blue one with the scales is my favorite. The scales say ‘finance’ to me. It looks like it could be from Hermès. It’s a power tie.”
-Carlos Hernandez, 36, Jersey City
“The light blue one is my father. The dark blue one is my uncle. And the yellow one is like the bastard son.”
-Douglas Citron, 51, Buffalo, N.Y.
Tonight on Fox News, Hannity shows Colmes how to knot a “kickass dimple.” Hannity & Colmes. [FNC, 46, 9 p.m.]
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