Ed Driscoll

DENNIS MILLER'S NEW CNBC SHOW:

DENNIS MILLER’S NEW CNBC SHOW: Nina and I tuned in for Dennis Miller’s debut tonight. Miller got off some great lines, but the show’s format seemed to work against him. The monkey at the beginning–what was that all about? Unlike Saturday Night Live or his HBO show, Miller only had the crew on the set to laugh at his riffs, which seemed to make many of those lines fall flat. In a sense, no laughter is far better than a handful of nervous chuckles from a crew who’s probably preoccupied with moving cameras, mics and keeping an eye on the Teleprompter. Miller mentioned something about going for a Tom Snyder Tomorrow show atmosphere, but Snyder’s show was a much more intimate affair, designed to allow the post-Tonight Show audience to wind down in the wee hours. Miller’s rants and cornucopia of pop culture references need more ummph behind him to nudge the guy in his living room in the ribs and tell him when to laugh.

On the plus side, Gov. Schwarzenegger was a can’t-miss choice to launch the show. Miller’s argument with an offscreen Roger Ailes was amusing (You owe me $12,000, Roger. Let’s split the difference each send $6,000 to charity, OK?), and a nice way to tweak Fox News, where Miller stopped by for a cup of coffee before landing the CNBC gig.

And it’s more than a little surprising to see Miller interviewing David Horowitz and David Frum. None of these guys (well, maybe, possibly Frum) are your father’s conservative. Sandwiched between the two was Naomi Wolfe, Ms. Earthtones herself, who seemed to offer little more than Copperhead Conjunctions: “Sure Saddam’s bad. But…” “I’m happy to see him gone. But…” Frum and Horowitz seemed to pull their counterpunches, but such is the nature of television. Either people throw chairs (ala Morton Downey or Joe Pine, who was name dropped by Miller early in the broadcast), or they throw softballs. Par for the course.

Like most new TV shows, I’m sure Miller’s gig is a work in progress, and the rough edges will get smoothed out–or it won’t stick around all that long. And it will be interesting to see if he becomes a hip alternative to Bill O’Reilly. Their politics are probably fairly similar, so it’s more a matter of tone. There’s obviously a marketplace of hardcore news junkies who are conservative to some degree. Who will they choose–happy-go-lucky hipster Miller, or tough-as-nails O’Reilly?