The Common Thread of ‘Person to Person’ and ‘Rock Center’

By Chris Ariens 

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The NBC and CBS news divisions each programmed an hour of primetime Wednesday night to mixed viewer results.

On CBS, it was the return of “Person to Person,” the iconic interview program hosted first by Edward R. Murrow and later by Charles Collingwood. The new iteration pairs Charlie Rose and Lara Logan (shouldn’t it be ‘People to Person’?) and last night featured interviews with George Clooney, Warren Buffet and Jon Bon Jovi.

On NBC at 9pm, the new day and time for “Rock Center,” a blockbuster interview with one-time White House intern Mimi Aflord who discussed it great — and at one point not-safe-for-primetime — detail, her affair with Pres. John F. Kennedy, including rubber duckies and fixing eggs. The interview by Meredith Vieira — in her debut on the show — took up most of the hour. According to the overnight ratings:

  • At 8pm “Person to Person” came in third in its timeslot drawing 6.02 million viewers and a 4.2 rating/6 share in households. The show was up against “American Idol” (17.91M viewers) and sitcoms on ABC (7.88M). The CBS News show outperformed sitcoms on NBC.
  • At 9pm “Rock Center” built on its lackluster sitcom lead-in, drawing 5.28 million Total Viewers and a 3.7 rating/5 share in households, but came in 4th in the hour behind, CBS, ABC and FOX.

If you caught the “Rock Center” interview you might have noticed an interesting parallel between it and “Person to Person.” The “Rock Center” story included a clip from an interview done 50 years ago this month, on February 14, 1962, when First Lady Jackie Kennedy took Collingwood on a tour of the White House. The hour was produced by CBS News but also aired on NBC, and, four days later, on ABC.

The Museum of Broadcasting said the Collingwood report, “was the first primetime documentary to explicitly court a female audience.” Sort of what “Person to Person” and “Rock Center” went for last night.