Ed Driscoll

'Try These on for Size, Connie Chung!'

35 years ago, after replacing Chevy Chase as the host of Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” mock news program, Jane Curtain began one memorable segment by ripping off her shirt and revealing her bra:

Announcer: And now, “Weekend Update,” with Jane Curtin.

Jane Curtin: Before I begin my regular news broadcast tonight, I’d like to read you a letter. [ holds letter ] “Dear Jane Curtin: I certainly miss Chevy, he is real sexy. You can’t hold a candle to him. Would you please send me his photograph? Yours sincerely, Margie Kaufman.” [ puts letter down ] I’ve been getting letters about News Update lately with phrases like “Going Downhill”, “Not What It Used To Be”, and “Just Plain Boring.” Mostly the letters are about how Update isn’t as good as when that “sexy Chevy Chase” did it. The network says the ratings are slipping, and they’re putting a lot of pressure on Lorne to try somebody new, like that new kid Murray, or whatever his name is. You see, I just assumed it was responsible journalism you wanted, not sex. I gave you more credit than that. But I was wrong. What can I say, besides… “Try THESE on for size, Connie Chung!” [ she rips open her blouse and exposes her black bra ] If it’s raw news you want, it’s raw news you get!

(I started to post a still shot of the above scene, but Curtin’s scowl at the apogee of her denudation was more than a little off-putting. You can see a photo here if you like.)

What was satire in 1976 is reality in 2012 — or at least as close to reality as CNN ever gets these days. As Breitbart TV notes today, “Kathy Griffin takes off her shirt. Anderson Cooper stammers uncomfortably. David Gergen inexplicably phones in. The rest is awkward television history:”

Back in 2009, CNN co-founder Reese Schonfeld told his equally shocked and ideologically similar colleagues at the Huffington Post that “seven months after Barack Obama’s victory, CNN’s ratings have gone down the drain:”

Nine years ago, when FoxNews sprinted past CNN to become America’s number one news network, I attributed its ratings gains to the election of George Bush and the triumph of Fox-watching conservatives. I figured conservatives would be savoring their victory while liberals were averting their eyes in disgust. For the next eight years, I measured political sentiment in the United States by comparing the size of the FoxNews audience with the combined size of the CNN/MSNBC audience. In this space, I even predicted, with reasonable accuracy, the percent by which Barack Obama won the election based on the split in the news audience.

Now, seven months after Barack Obama’s victory, CNN’s ratings have gone down the drain. From May of last year to May of this year, CNN lost 22% of its total primetime audience. MSNBC was down 2%, while FoxNews was up 24%. In the key advertising demographic (25-54), Fox was up 31%, CNN was down 37% and MSNBC was down 26%. In hard numbers, Fox had 109,000 more viewers than last year while CNN lost 113,000. CNN averaged fewer than 200,000 25-54 viewers in primetime. Even MSNBC averaged more viewers than that.

Total day was nearly as bad, with Fox up 24% and CNN down 7%. MSNBC was down 2% in total viewing. Fox is beating CNN almost two-to-one in most categories.

There’s no need to throw any more numbers at you–Fox is gaining, CNN is wilting. Why is this happening when the country still seems about 58-42 in favor of Obama? My best guess is the passion of those who detest Democrats, liberals, and in particular, Barack Obama.

Yesterday, Steve Hayward at Power Line wished a Happy News Year to Fox News, noting, “I used to joke that Osama bin Laden was probably hiding out all these years at MSNBC, since nobody ever looks there for anything.  The latest cable TV ratings bear this out.  Fox News is killing everybody, taking the top 13 places in the ratings.  Turns out that even re-runs of the O’Reilly Factor do better than MSNBC’s best show.”

And when your ratings have hit bottom, you’ve got to do what you got to do to generate PR, even if it involves a show anchor not-so-boldly going where Jane Curtin went 35 years ago, and losing her shirt, an unintentional metaphor for how CNN’s ideology as a whole has damaged its ratings in the US.

Related: Not that Connie Chung hasn’t had questionable wardrobe choices and awkward moments of her own, of course.