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The Ruminator: Wishing you a cranky new year from the media sidelines

Jan 6, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Well hidy hidy ho and Happy New Year and all that crap. I’m still hung over and I’m crabby and I’m not in the mood to mince words. First off, who’s this Alex Ben Block who’s coming in to run EM? Don’t know him-hear mixed things. Ross I barely knew-and I wasn’t too fond of him. And come on, did any of you believe that stuff about him and the flesh-eating disease? If it were true there would’ve been a CBS movie of the week about it, and there wasn’t, so you decide. That’s this business: Everything’s an illusion.

Here’s the latest one: ABC News and CNN are going to get together. One week we read it’s on, one week that it’s off, then on again, then off-puh-leeze, are you kidding? The folks who work in the newsrooms at both organizations don’t want any part of a marriage. But the number crunchers at both corporate headquarters can’t hide their enthusiasm for a way to save millions and millions of operating dollars.

So which side gets its way? Well, here’s a prediction you can take to the bank this year: There ain’t gonna be a deal.

Both ABC News and CNN think they are better than they are. The House of Roone is crumbling from old age, too many face lifts and no new ideas. The House of Ted has been surpassed by Fox News Channel. What we have here are two organizations in trouble, but which will battle for control of any new organization. It’s a bit like the AOL Time Warner merger. Ask Jerry Levin and Steve Case about fighting for control and what that leads to.

And here’s another maybe even better reason the deal won’t happen. M-I-C-H-A-E-L E-I-S-N-E-R does not spell D-I-C-K P-A-R-S-O-N-S. It spells L-O-R-D V-O-L-D-E-M-O-R-T, or, as he’s known around ABC and Disney, He Who Must Not Be Named.

This is a man who eats his young, spits out his friends and doesn’t really like to make deals. The Imperial Michael. Don’t kiss his ring and you’re out on your ass. Michael, you ran Disney brilliantly for a long time, but you needed to move on about five years ago. I love you, but kush my tokhes arayn.

Bottom line: Sometime in April or May ABC News and CNN will sadly announce that the idea of a news merger has too many roadblocks and won’t happen.

And CNN will go on looking not quite all that bad because MSNBC will still be around. Because no matter by how much Fox News Channel beats CNN in the ratings, there is always MSNBC to look down on.

Who knew when he started his MSNBC gig that Phil Donahue was going to be such a disaster that we’d actually wish he’d do his show in a dress again? Who could have prognosticated that it would be Connie Chung who would wear the pants in the time period? My god, it’s so bad that they’re lampooning Phil on “Saturday Night Live” instead of Connie. Talk about your Mad TV.

So who’s the next savior for MSNBC? I say bring back the chimp. You probably read about it in your history books. The “Today” show, when it debuted back in the early ’50s, was a bomb until they brought in a chimp to co-host. I kid you not.

Grasping at grapplers

In fact, the latest rumor at MSNBC is that they really DO want to bring in a chimp, er, chump, er, former champ. Jesse Ventura. I kid you not. What’s he gonna do, wrestle Jerry Nachman? OK, I’d watch that, but not more than eight or nine times.

MSNBC has no philosophy and no breakthrough talent, and it changes formats at the drop of a hat. It’s had five formats in five years. How long are Bill Gates, the MS part of MSNBC, and GE, the NBC part of MSNBC, going to put up with this mess? MSNBC is run by a committee: NBC News chief Neal Shapiro, NBC Chief Operating Officer Andy Lack and MSNBC chief Erik Sorenson. Between them they can’t figure out who’s on first, let alone what’s on the air.

Am I cranky? You betcha. One reason-and one reason that it’s been awhile since we’ve last visited, is that I’ve been a little preoccupied. You see, at the moment, I’m actually a former network executive. What happened, you ask? Creative differences and all that. Yeah, like I’m gonna tell you what REALLY happened. Suffice it to say it wasn’t anything I really did. And this isn’t the first time this has happened in my career, of course. Wait, you think whatever went down must’ve been my fault? I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that.

Yeah, go ahead, pour me another scotch. Have a Happy New Year and kush my …#