The notion that Parker Spitzer, the new primetime news show starring syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker and less-than-squeaky-clean former New York governor Eliot Spitzer, would save CNN always struck us as highly dubious. (Time Warner executives apparently felt the same way, firing network president Jonathan Klein last month before the show even began taping.) Based on the responses to last night's premiere episode, the show's problems extend beyond a mere uninspired conceit. Simply put, the thing's a disaster:
- Bad Touch Time's James Poniewozik couldn't get past the postage-stamp sized table Parker, Spitzer and their guests had to sit at for the duration of the program. "Ugh, it was just too close," says Poniewozik of the table, the surface area of which was roughly "the size of a medium pizza." Poniewozik's only half-kidding when he writes, "I think I may have felt someone's knee touch mine."
- On Borrowed Time Klein's dismissal effectively removed the show's biggest booster, writes The Guardian's Dan Kennedy. Without Klein on-hand to fight for his labor of love, Parker Spitzer made its "debut with more than a whiff of carnage in the air." The show's inept formatting make it impossible to take seriously as news, observes Kennedy, forcing critics to fall back on aesthetic critiques. Kennedy, for his part, is more than happy to oblige, noting that "having Spitzer and Parker sit so close together and trade sly banter is just plain creepy."
- Spitzer Strikes Out The New York Post's Andrea Peyser doubts the show will do much to rehabilitate Spitzer's bruised public image. Peyser notes Spitzer appeared visibly uncomfortable for much of the night, "squirming like a flounder and blushing a terrible shade of crimson" as he "rested his knees clumsily against those of Parker" behind that infamous table. On the whole, concludes Peyser, it was a "merciless program" with a distinct "freakshow quality" that colored the proceedings.
- So Dated If young viewers are what CNN's after, last night's show was a colossal flop, writes The New Republic's Jesse Singal. Everything about Parker Spitzer seemed musty and out-dated, especially the "up-tempo jazz introduction which marks this as a show for middle-aged folks ready to pour themselves a glass of Shiraz and get just a tiny little bit randy."
- Bad Match Parker and Spitzer just aren't pleasant to watch together, says Alessandra Stanley of The New York Times. There's an "ickiness factor" to all their interactions. "Last week," Stanley recalls, "Larry King told the duo that they had 'chemistry' — if so, it carries a queasy whiff of sulfur."