By Caryn James | James on Screens February 25, 2011 at 10:11AM
Whatever you think of Eliot Spitzer - and frankly I’d take smart, Clinton-Spitzer sex-challenged politicians over idiot politicians any day - he’s good on television. He’s an incisive, challenging interviewer; he’s politically opinionated but not bullying, and always listens to the other side.
So it makes sense that Kathleen Parker is leaving the Parker Spitzer show, a move CNN announced on Friday afternoon, the time you dump news you hope to bury.
A new version of the show, renamed In the Arena, begins Monday (8 ET). According to CNN, “Spitzer will remain on that show, which will adopt an ensemble format with several newsmakers, guests and contributors joining Eliot Spitzer each night." That gaggle of other people sounds ad-hoc to the point of chaos, so I’m not convinced they know where they’re going, but it was smart to cut Parker loose and move on.
Parker Spitzer was always a disaster, in the ratings and even more as a program. The too-cute format tried to pair them without ever quite admitting they’re on opposite sides ideologically. The show wanted to be Crossfire without the fire, and ended having no identity at all – except for Spitzer’s strong personality.
And Parker, a writer before this gig, never seemed comfortable on TV. At the start she strained to make outlandish arguments, and more recently has seemed diminished - understandably, since rumors that she was being dropped have floated for weeks.
CNN is in flux, and seems to be drifting more than sailing in any particular direction. Even the relatively new Piers Morgan Tonight is floundering. His recent guests have included three of the last people I want to hear from any more: Donald Trump, Hugh Heffner and Larry King. Why look backwards?
But even if no one at CNN has a clear idea of what to do with Spitzer, they're bright enough to hang onto him.