Reports of CNN's death are both greatly exaggerated and not really exaggerated at all. The story earlier this summer was that our oldest cable news network was utterly doomed, a wasteland of low ratings and middle-of-the-road meaningless. But, as we reminded you, third-place CNN, despite its American viewer nadir, actually makes loads of money in overseas licensing fees and other such international endeavors. Money to the tune of $600 million in profits. So we shouldn't be eulogizing CNN just yet. But it is at least true that, on the American side of things, the network is in something of a viewership tailspin. Thus, enter the reality show.
Yes, as The New York Post detailed this morning, CNN is looking to revolutionize its programming slate by adding a few not-quite-so-newsy shows to its usual droning talking head/news crawl format. Remember how the network hired foodie raconteur journeyman Anthony Bourdain to do a weekend show? Well, they're looking for more folks like that. Emissaries from the network have been meeting with talent agents and even reality show producers — folks who've done shows for Bravo and the like — to try and build new programming that features personality-driven shows from celebrity types, instead of, y'know, news types. Yup, it's true. Despite all those profits, the domestic ratings situation has gotten so dire that CNN, venerable old-guard 24-hour news junkie staple that it is, is meeting with the Magical Elves. (Well, OK, maybe not necessarily them, but similar reality producers!) So what might these shows look like, and who might host them? In case they weren't able to land Livin' with Lochte, we came up with some more solid television programming ideas.
Eatin' It with Rachael Ray
A seasoned (ha!) TV personality, Ray could easily move from daytime talk show to CNN newstainment program. It'd be a snap. And if Anthony Bourdain can do it, why not her? On Eatin' It, Ray would bring together a panel of guests — news people, politicians, celebrities — and talk to them while cooking, Molto Mario-style. But instead of talking homemade pasta techniques and EVOO, she'd be discussing that week's political blunders and policy misfires. You know, "eating it," like falling down. Everyone loves Rachael Ray — well, OK, enough people love Rachael Ray — and certainly everyone loves disasters and mistakes, so this seems like a perfect combination. Plus you get a recipe out of it! You've heard of gazpacho, but what about "Gaffezpacho"??
The Shaun White Interview
Ever since Barack Obama came along and hypnotized the nation's children like a pied piper of questionable provenance, politicians have been obsessed with the youth vote. Gotta get the youth vote, have to get the message out to all the young kids out there with their iPods and their skateboards and their hi-fi systems and whatnot. And who knows youth — who is youth — more than multiple Olympic medal-winning snowboarder (it's like two skis fused together, Mr. Romney) Shaun White? Hence this interview show, in which politicians plead their cases to the Flying Tomato and the kids at home can decide if they dig it. Chances are if Shaun digs it, they'll dig it. Just like that. Who wouldn't want to watch Sharron Angle or some other respected statesman "hang ten" with Vancouver's number one p---y hound? It just makes sense. White, who's been doing a good bit of media training with NBC, could also deliver a top-of-the-show monologue or rumination on the issues of the day. Could be sweet, brah.
Gwyneth Paltrow: Eat or Die
Let's get out of the studio, shall we? Remember when Gwyneth Paltrow, shimmering inter-dimensional feather creature, had that PBS special series where she traveled around Spain eating food with Mario Batali? Well, let's make that a regular show. Sure, sure, CNN's already got Bourdain for the epicurean travelogue beat, but Paltrow would add a dash of light, lemony femininity to the genre. Plus her show would have a twist: She'd go where the news was. Meaning, there's a bombing in Addis Ababa? Gwyneth is there that week, reporting on the story while dipping some injera into some sweet, sweet wat. Troubles along the DMZ? Kimchi with Kim Jong. Sure it sounds like an awfully dangerous thing for an inexperienced, pampered actress to be doing, but that's what makes it interesting! Will she make it out alive? Find out next week on GP: EOD.
Betty White Explains the News
Betty White is pretty hot right now, yeah? She totally is. White hot, even. (Get it?) And just as Shaun White (another White! What's happening??) can explain thing to the youngs, Betty White can take care of the olds. So every week a camera crew meets Betty at her house and she sifts through some newspapers and print-outs of blog posts and explains things to her age demo. Not super newsy things, but more culture and trend pieces. Like, someone at a nursing home in the Finger Lakes might not quite get Azealia Banks, so here's Betty White to explain her. ("She's a young lady who talks about her private parts a lot. Gee, I know an old lady who would like to use her private parts a lot." Betty White is always making some sort of sexual innuendo joke.) It could be a really helpful service while also being super entertaining.
Andy Cohen Debates, Y'all!
In this limited series, King of the Bravolebrities Andy Cohen hosts all the presidential debates, and VP debates, using ribald jokes, arts & crafts props, and liquor. CNN pulls a Producers-style successful flop here. The show sinks the network, it shuts down, a certain group of people walks away rich. It's really the best outcome for everyone. Or at least those people.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.