3/3/09 1:21 PM

J$P archives: Jan-Feb 2009

For current entries see johnnydollar.us.

MSNBC Comes to Fox?

Well not quite. But there are clear parallels between the format of Hannity and those primetime offerings down the dial.

With six showings of Hannity into the record books, it's clear that the original debate concept of Hannity & Colmes has been abandoned. Now Sean interviews like-minded folk who won't challenge his points: Jonah Goldberg, Pat Buchanan, Fred Thompson, Elizabeth Hasselbeck, etc. Oh there was an interview with Don Imus (neither conservative nor a Republican) but it was a celebrity-style chat, barely touching on any political issues. This is all straight out of the playbook of Keith Olbermann. Or for that matter Rachel Maddow who, aside from an infrequent appearance of Buchanan, also proffers a parade of ideological soulmates.

Hannity has a segment imaginatively called "Hannity's America", an opinionated run-down of news stories that's not much different from Maddow's "holy mackerel" shtick. His "special reports" echo similar Olbermann set-pieces. And Hannity has even adopted the mid-break teases that have been a part of Countdown for years.

Saving Hannity from being another cable news hour with the ideological diversity of Radio North Korea: The Great American Panel. The segment got off to a messy start, but has become more orderly. The makeup (liberal, conservative, X-factor) insures some opposing viewpoints will be heard every night, more so if Hannity can resist the temptation to sneak friendly voices into the X slot (like choosing what must be the only Hollywood actress/SNL alum who was a devoted Reaganette). Bob Beckel's turn in the liberal role was strongest--on one topic (bailouts) all three members of his panel disagreed with the show's host. You'll never see that on MSNBC primetime.

Still, despite the panel, if you are looking for even-handed discourse, Hannity is a shell of its former self. There are ways to improve the situation--the most straightforward would be to book some liberals and Democrats for interviews (if they are willing to endure Sean's lengthy, list-infested questioning).

But there are those who believe cable news deserves to have at least one nightly left/right debate program. One wonders if it would be so difficult after all to find a co-host who could spark some chemistry with Sean Hannity. Maybe someone with Hannity's Irish gift for blarney. Years ago, Roger Ailes gave a break to a little-known politico, permitting him to host a news-talk program on the "America's Talking" channel. He did well enough that Ailes brought him over to CNBC and gave him a high-visibility hour: Politics, with Chris Matthews, later redubbed Hardball. Matthews's MSNBC contract is about to expire, and while negotiations are ongoing, there has yet to be an announcement.

What if Mr Ailes were to call on his old friend once again, and offer him greater visibility, freedom from having to masquerade (unsuccessfully) as a nonpartisan analyst, and an audience larger than he has ever earned on his own? We have no reason to believe any such thing could happen, and good reason to believe it won't. But Sean Hannity & Chris Matthews? That would be one hell of a debate show.

The Fox Guide

Here is our listing of known links for the people of Fox News. It is not a comprehensive list of all reporters and contributors--only those for whom we found websites, blogs, etc. that offer content beyond what is broadcast. If we missed anyone, email us or add a comment. This article will be updated as needed, and will always be available under "fox guide" in our right-hand column.

Last updated: February 18 2009