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Parker/Spitzer struggles through good intentions and weird moments

CNN's debut of its latest prime-time news magazine show, with Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker, was very earnest about trying to be serious and bipartisan. But it hit some jarring notes.

By Staff writer / October 5, 2010

Kathleen Parker and Eliot Spitzer host the CNN prime-time show "Parker/Spitzer." )

Art Streiber/CNN/AP

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CNN’s latest gambit to pump up its prime-time ratings – the new hour-long, “Parker/Spitzer” news magazine show – debuted Monday night as something of a gathering of earnest first years at, say, a pretty good law school.

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The newbie cohosts – Pulitzer prize-winning conservative columnist Kathleen Parker and New York’s former governor and attorney general, the disgraced Eliot Spitzer – were fitted out for serious business in demure pearls and a sober dark suit. A bunch of newspapers were strewn on the table in front of them – implying more high-mindedness, for sure.

They introduced their show as being about ideas, not irrational table-pounding, an apparent swipe at their competition for the time slot, Fox’s Bill O’Reilly and MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann. The next hour was a jumble of good intentions mixed in with some downright weird moments that somebody outside of the show’s programming bubble ought to have vetted.

The opening statements from each probably would have gotten them booted from a courtroom for immediately straying from the show’s stated premise: Ms. Parker knocked Sarah Palin for being too coy with voters and demanded she announce her 2012 intentions. Mr. Spitzer railed against President Obama for allowing the treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, to handle the bank bailout, and demanded the president fire the man.

After a talking heads segment, the team brought on Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Warren to deconstruct the new consumer agency she is helping build, as well as explain why she didn’t go through a confirmation hearing. All well and good, if not exactly heart-pounding programming.

Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin bopped in to pitch his new movie, “The Social Network,” and got to slam both Ms. Palin and the two political parties (“The Democrats may have moved into the center, but the Republicans have moved into a mental institution.”) In one of the show's weird moments, guest Henry Blodget, a former Merrill Lynch insider whom Spitzer successfully prosecuted, came on to trade compliments with the former AG.

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