Chung ready for ‘gets’ on CNN

Jun 24, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Connie Chung spent last week putting the big pieces in place for her new show, “Connie Chung Tonight,” which debuts at 8 p.m. (ET) Monday on CNN.
What those pieces are exactly, Ms. Chung wasn’t saying. She’s too competitive to tip off rivals in her old world (the news divisions of CBS, NBC and ABC) or in her new world, cable news, where all eyes currently are on the 8 p.m. hour in which Ms. Chung goes head-to-head with cable news king Bill O’Reilly on Fox News Channel and, starting July 15, talk show pioneer Phil Donahue on MSNBC.
Ms. Chung was sharing details of the format with which she and senior executive producer Bruce Perlmutter hope to distinguish her show from others. They’ll focus first on people whose individual stories tell the big story of the day; second on a “back burner” story about someone or something that took a long time to pin down; and then will close the hour with a segment in which they “experiment” and “have a little fun.”
“We want to push the envelope a little bit but not veer out of the box,” said Ms. Chung, who takes fun as seriously as work.
She belted out “Get Me to the `Get’ on Time”’ (not quite to the tune of “Get Me to the Church on Time”) in which she urged, “That’s right, Osama, come talk to Mama” to a power-packed crowd gathered at New York’s “21” Club in her honor. MSNBC invitees were no-shows, but an AOL Time Warner executive phalanx (Steve Case, Richard Parsons and Bob Pittman) was present, as were CBS chief Les Moonves, DreamWorks’ Jeffrey Katzenberg, Fox News topper Roger Ailes and Mr. O’Reilly (who promises a couple of on-air surprises himself Monday) and, of course, Ms. Chung’s prime-time colleagues Larry King and Aaron Brown.
“We had to be different from Larry King, and we had to be different from Aaron Brown,” said Ms. Chung, who recently has spent much of her time fending off the expectation that she and Mr. King will be fighting tooth and nail for the same guests.
“Larry does names,” said Ms. Chung. “Our program is going to focus more often than not on the old cliche: ordinary people caught in extraordinary circumstances.”
Making its debut with Ms. Chung on Monday is the studio built for her in street-level space carved out of the Time-Life building on Sixth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan.
While work will continue through the summer on the glassed-in studio that will house “American Morning With Paula Zahn,” Ms. Chung’s compact studio, which does not utilize glass walls, was the proverbial beehive of activity that included final touches and testing last week.
Ms. Chung’s studio will not look onto the sidewalks of Sixth Avenue but will offer, courtesy of a photographic panorama, a 270-degree view of Manhattan’s skyline at night. Curves are everywhere-from patterns on the floor to diffused neon arcs on the wall to the “desk” that will serve as home base and the couch that will allow her to go knee-to-knee with some guests.