Carlson Signed Off on a Recent Friday by Thanking 'All Eight' of the People Who Watch His Show
By Jon Ponder on 11/15/2007, 3:00pm PT  

Guest blogged by Jon Ponder, Pensito Review.

I happened to catch the end of Tucker Carlson's show on MSNBC a couple of Fridays ago, and heard him sign off with this:

CARLSON: That does it for us. Thank you for watching, as always. We mean that sincerely to all eight of you.

All eight of you? It's not often you hear a cable host admit his ratings suck.

I knew someone at TVNewser would pick this up, and, sure enough:

A TVNewser tipster tells us "MSNBC management [is] infuriated" at Tucker's flippant sign-off.

And Tucker underestimates his viewership by a factor of 10,000. His 10-day average in the A25-54 demo is 80,000. He finished in third [behind other shows in the same time slot] on seven of those days, and fourth, behind Headline News, on three days.

In the background, of course, is the ratings success of "Countdown," Keith Olbermann's groundbreaking show at 5 p.m. Olbermann has surprised nearly everyone in the cable news business by creating a rating success with news slanted to the left and commentary that often excoriates George Bush and his regime.

"Countdown" has been on for more than four years so it was just a matter of time before the executives at MSNBC noticed (or could no longer deny) that Olbermann's show is the most successful live show in their line-up. Now it seems they're ready to copy Olbermann's success by bringing on another liberal host (which would make a grand total of two in all of TV land).

On the Monday after Carlson's sad little sign off, the New York Times reported that MSNBC was in talks with Rosie O'Donnell to host a show on the network.

The Times suggested O'Donnell would replace Dan Abrams in the 6 p.m. slot --- against Larry King on CNN --- but I had my doubts. Abrams recently returned to the air full time after a stint as the network's general manager. His show isn't doing that much better than former GOP congressman Joe Scarborough's did in the same hour. (Scarborough was moved to Don Imus' old early morning slot.) But Abrams is smart, polished and occasionally funny, plus he's a lawyer and the next time a huge scandal with legal dimensions pops up --- and we are long overdue --- his show will get numbers.

MSNBC's talks with Rosie fell through --- a fact that was a devastating blow to at least one group --- television trivia buffs. She would have been the fourth person in the NBC news family named O'Donnell, which has to be a record of some sort. Can you name the other three? (Answers below.)

As a former regular viewer of "Crossfire," CNN's battle-of-the-talking-points show which Carlson co-hosted for a number of years, I was surprised when MSNBC announced they were giving him his own hour --- a misguided attempt to attract viewers from Fox, I suspected --- and I've been surprised ever since that they have kept him on the air.

There have been stories floating around in media circles for a while now that Carlson's agent has been pitching him to host game shows (and who can forget his stint on "Dancing with the Stars"), so maybe Tucker sees the writing on the wall and is preparing to exit gracefully when the inevitable happens.

If MSNBC wants to hire a liberal host to replace Carlson (or whomever), here are a few people they should consider:

  • Stephanie Miller, who does a hilarious morning drive political show here in Los Angeles --- with the proviso that she must stay in LA.
  • Rachel Maddow, the Air America host who already has an on-air deal with the network.
  • Randi Rhodes, also on Air America, who is as smart and incisive on her feet as anyone in the media (and whose producers often link to our stories at Pensito Review on her website).
  • Phil Donahue, who was fired by MSNBC because of low ratings and because he criticized Bush in the run-up to the Iraq war. {ED NOTE UPDATE: Actually, our understanding is that Donahue's ratings were the highest on the news channel at the time that he was cancelled. The cancellation, was related to his politics, not to his ratings.}

Answer to Trivia Question:

NBC's Three O'Donnells: White House correspondent Kelly, daytime host Norah and senior legal analyst Lawrence.