brucekluger.com

    The Los Angeles Times, July 12, 2001

    Commentary
    Pro-Choice Push-Ups Fight Fox Flab for CNN

    By Bruce Kluger and David Slavin


    Message to cable news watchers: Fasten
    your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

    AOL/Time Warner has named Walter
    Isaacson, the former managing editor of Time
    magazine, to head CNN. This occurs just one
    week after a liberal media watchdog group
    condemned rival Fox News Channel for what
    it believes is Fox's chronic conservative slant.

    "Good journalism doesn't have to be boring,"
    declared Isaacson, who at Time was known
    for his coziness with the Clinton
    administration and penchant for stories with
    entertainment appeal. Precisely what kind of
    liberal-minded, show-biz-oriented
    programming does Isaacson have in mind?
    Stay tuned.

    Cooking with Carville: Move over, Emeril. Capitol Hill's Ragin' Cajun Jim Carville
    swaps his legendary spin-machine for a 10-speed Cuisinart as he whips up Big
    Easy recipes for viewers, seasoning his banter with his trademark peppery patois.
    Most popular dishes: Blackened GOP Grouper ("As fishy as Trent, as crusty as
    Strom") and Carville's Special Creole Pizza ("It's the oregano, stupid").

    Robbins & Sarandon: This all-left answer to Fox's popular Hannity & Colmes stars
    Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, who champion the plight of the underprivileged,
    direct from their VIP table at Elaine's. The show's most popular segment, a monthly
    "Oppressed Fest" telethon, raises funds for the hosts' pet causes, such as the
    inclusion of Mexican migrant workers in the song, "The Farmer in the Dell," and
    their ongoing protest over the appalling lack of Native American characters on the
    HBO series The Sopranos.

    Big Brother Baldwin: An ingenious blend of reality TV, political pot-stirring and
    sibling rivalry finds screen star Alec Baldwin facing off with actor-activist brothers
    Billy, Stephen and Daniel in a series of heated competitions, including fighting over
    the latest issue of Mother Jones magazine. The program ends after Week 1, when
    viewers vote all of the brothers off the show.

    Barney!: In this early morning kids' show, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) dons
    purple pinstripes and teaches tolerance to the toddler set via his signature brand of
    funny filibusters and silly songs, such as "If You're Living an Alternative Lifestyle
    and You Know It, Clap Your Hands." Among Barney's regular guests is Stanley the
    Storyteller, who delights children with such engaging tales as "Spencer Has One
    Mommy, One Daddy, Several 'Uncles' and Some Weird Guy Sleeping on the
    Couch."

    Woody Harrelson's Hemp World: Former Cheers star and public demonstrator
    nonpareil Harrelson devotes 30 smokin' minutes of broadcast time to the magic of
    marijuana. Helping the actor light a fire under his campaign for the legalization of
    pot are panelists Willie Nelson, Whitney Houston and former Supreme Court
    nominee Douglas Ginsburg. (Bill Clinton appears, but doesn't inhale.)

    Aerobics With Asner: If you thought you loved TV's pugnacious Lou Grant, wait
    until you see him in a leopard bodysuit. In this grueling, hour-long fitness program,
    unrepentant liberal Ed Asner forces flabby conservatives and corpulent corporate
    fat cats to bend to his willliterallythrough such exercises as Pro-Choice Push-
    Ups, Free-Speech Free-Weights and Asner's piece de resistance, a cardio-
    crunching session on the "Lefty Lifecycle."

    The MacNeil-Streisand NewsHour: Six years after ending his landmark
    partnership with PBS' Jim Lehrer, Robin MacNeil returns to television, sharing the
    anchor desk with celebrated chanteuse and self-appointed public servant Barbra
    Streisand, who offers up such trenchant commentary as "Yentl and Yasser: The
    Road to Peace?" and her Peabody Award-winning screed, "The President Has Two
    Faces."