The PJ Tatler

CNN's Crossfire is a Ratings Misfire

CNN’s new Crossfire isn’t firing the cable news network to the top of the ratings, says Deadline Hollywood.

Resuscitated on September 9 after eight years off the air, the political debate show pulled in just 233,00 viewers overall and a mere 59,000 among adults 25-54 between 6:30 PM and 7 PM on Monday. Full-hour time-slot rivals on Fox News Channel and MSNBC did a lot better — to put it mildly. FNC’s Special Report had 2.44 million viewers with 411,000 in the key news demo, while MSNBC’s Al Sharpton-hosted PoliticsNation had 707,000 total viewers and 170,000 among the 25-54s.

The younger political animal me used to watch Crossfire every chance I could. I admired the platform itself and the figures who engaged each other, whether I agreed with what they were saying or not. Well, other than Mike Kinsley, who mostly just made my skin crawl. It seemed like a healthy place for real debate, when so much of political debate is staged and phony, just set up for gotchas and soundbites, only occasionally and accidentally engaging in real ideas.

But I haven’t tuned into the new Crossfire, not even once. Not even just to check it out.

When Crossfire debuted, there were very few other places to find conservative opinions on the air outside the Sunday morning talk shows, which air when most Americans are just not interested in politics. We’re at church or off at sports or sleeping in or doing a million things other than watching strangers argue about arcana. 

Crossfire succeeded, to the extent that it did, in a different cable news universe. When it debuted, political debate on television wasn’t all that common. Now it’s ubiquitous to the point that even those of us who engage in it every day just want to turn it all off sometimes. I can only imagine what normal people must think. Arguments do make for compelling television, evidenced by ESPN’s and Fox Sports One’s embrace of sports debate to fill out much of their respective broadcast days. Sports radio is almost nothing but debate and argument, with the occasional game thrown in to break things up. There’s always something to argue about, and everyone has an opinion. But do normal people want to watch very flawed politicians and opinionators argue and strut without ever solving a single thing? Some days, even I would rather argue about whether Arsenal really can mount a Premiere League title challenge (yes) or whether the Cowboys can ever rise above mediocrity with Jerry Jones as GM (not likely), or whether this player or that one is a better fit for one team or another. No one off the field really gets hurt and ultimately facts do win out when the season ends. Political season never ends now. It just. Never. Ends. There are no permanent victories, though paradoxically, there may always be a permanent defeat coming up tomorrow or next year.

Now that the entire political world is Crossfire on steroids and speed, there may not be a place for Crossfire, the show.

When does Fox Sports Live come on tonight?