Jim Bunning, Pink Floyd and Energy Drinks: Kathleen Parker and Eliot Spitzer Prep for Primetime on CNN

By Alex Weprin Comment

Since their 8 PM show on CNN was announced, hosts Kathleen Parker and Eliot Spitzer have insisted that the program will not be another “Crossfire.” That format, with a firebrand liberal facing off against a firebrand conservative, was sent to the garbage bin by the now former CNN president Jon Klein.

The new show, which Klein conceived, is meant to be more conversational, without the shouting. Parker compares it to a family dinner, with relatives of various political persuasions making their case before dessert.

Talking to the co-hosts, one understands the comparison. Spitzer and Parker are constantly cracking jokes, both of the traditional and self-deprecating variety, and the topic of conversation changes on a dime.

In an interview with TVNewser last week, the pair was asked what subjects they would discuss on the show. Politics, economics and sports all came up.

“We are waiting for a big athlete to enter politics and talk about economic policy,” Spitzer quipped, eliciting a laugh from Parker. From there, Spitzer turned the conversation to an anecdote about MLB hall of famer and U.S. Senator Jim Bunning:

“Jim Bunning, I don’t know if he would ever be a guest,” Spitzer said “Jim Bunning was in the senate, and he pitched a perfect game. I remember answering a question back when I was testifying a number years ago down in D.C. and all I remember is thinking ‘wow, this guy pitched a perfect game.’ He was asking me questions about Pink Floyd, Jim Bunning was asking me questions about Pink Floyd.”

While Bunning may be a longshot, Spitzer and Parker say that whoever they have on as guests, they don’t want them to be the same pundits that make regular appearances across the TV news landscape.

“The one thing we don’t want is for someone to turn on the TV and say ‘oh yeah, I have seen him or her 18 times in the past week,’” Spitzer says “That would lead to the same conversations and the same talking points, we are looking at different people, for a slightly different spark.

So Rahm Emanuel is leaving the White House, we’ll get Rahm on Monday, we’ll get his replacement Tuesday and we will get Obama on Wednesday,” he added, drawing another laugh from Parker.

“Yeah, we’ve already got Eliot Spitzer, what more do we need?” she said.

Spitzer’s past has been the subject of much discussion leading up to and following the announcement of the new show. The issue of credibility comes up: how can someone who left office in the way he did become a trusted source of information on CNN?

Spitzer says he hopes that people look beyond the past, and listen to what he has to say:

“I think people will listen and make a judgment about the conversation,” Spitzer told TVNewser. “They will ask themselves if they want to pay attention to the show, and hopefully they will say yes,”

Parker concurred.

“Outside of New York most people don’t know Eliot, they kind of have a vague impression of who he is,” Parker said. “Everybody remembers the day that is probably most painful for him to recollect. My personal feeling is that once they hear him talking about issues,  and he is so knowledgeable about so many subjects, that they will quickly forget his past, which is where it needs to be.”

Still unclear is how the new primetime lineup will flow from one program to the next. FNC and MSNBC have a lineup laden with personalities, with each host leading logically to the next. CNN’s lineup is more complicated, but Parker says she expects it to flow without issue:

“I think it is the perfect fit, John King is strictly politics, then we are more of a variety show, and then we go into the personalities,” she says “It seems to me it has been pretty well thought out.”

Parker has also developed a method for coping with Spitzer’s non-stop quips: energy drinks.

“We have had several truckloads delivered, right now I am on the lemon lime five hour energy,” she says “Feel it in minutes, lasts for hours. I call it my vitamins. I am taking Eliot’s coffee away, by the way.”

For now though, the pair say they are focused on trying to create an interesting television program. Spitzer says that the rest of CNN’s roster of journalists and anchors have stopped by and offered their help if they need it, along with giving some sage advice:

“They told us to ignore the bloggers,” Spitzer said.

“Yeah, ignore the suits and ignore the bloggers,” Parker said “We are wearing blinders next week.”