Fusion’s SOTU Coverage Will Be Hosted by Puppets and a Comedian

By Merrill Knox Comment

fusion puppetsA month after Fusion launched, CEO Isaac Lee encouraged the network’s staffers to “reach beyond the conventional.” They appear to be taking Lee’s advice to heart, especially when it comes to political coverage: tomorrow night, comedian Paul F. Tompkins and the puppets from “No, You Shut Up!” will helm the network’s State of the Union coverage.

Variety’s Brian Steinberg speaks with Fusion senior vice president and chief programming officer Billy Kimball about the decision:

Viewers will be able to hear President Obama’s every word, said Kimball. The creatures will only talk during gaps in the speech, such as when applause breaks out. Fusion has altered commercial loads so that it can present the event free of advertising, he said.

The off-beat attempt at political coverage marks what Fusion executives hope is a new calling card for the fledgling network: Satire of important current events about which a good chunk of the nation is curious. Fusion’s lineup is an unorthodox mix of hard-news coverage and satire – indeed, the satire takes up an entire hour starting at 9 p.m. Eastern and breaks up more traditional news programming. But Kimball says more is on the way.

“ABC’s ‘State of the Union’ is more or less the same as CBS and NBC and CNN, so we don’t see any particular reason to throw our hat into the exact same ring,” said Kimball, a veteran of “Not Necessarily The News,” CBS’ “The Late Late Show with Craig Klborn” and Fox’s early-era latenight effort, “The Wilton North Report.” The new idea “really comes from our content mission to come up with new and unconventional ways to add entertainment value.”