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Pro-Choice Push-Ups Fight Fox Flab for CNN

July 12, 2001|BRUCE KLUGER and DAVID SLAVIN | Bruce Kluger and David Slavin write political satire for Salon.com

Message to cable news watchers: Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy ride. AOL Time Warner has named Walter Isaacson, the former managing editor of Time magazine, to head CNN. This occurs just one week after a liberal media watchdog group condemned rival Fox News Channel for what it believes is Fox's chronic conservative slant.

"Good journalism doesn't have to be boring," declared Isaacson, who at Time was known for his coziness with the Clinton administration and penchant for stories with entertainment appeal. Precisely what kind of liberal-minded, show-biz-oriented programming does Isaacson have in mind?

*"Cooking with Carville": Move over, Emeril. Capitol Hill's Ragin' Cajun Jim Carville swaps his legendary spin-machine for a 10-speed Cuisinart as he whips up Big Easy recipes for viewers, seasoning his banter with his trademark peppery patois. Most popular dishes: Blackened GOP Grouper ("As fishy as Trent, as crusty as Strom") and Carville's Special Creole Pizza ("It's the oregano, stupid").

*"Robbins & Sarandon": This all-left answer to Fox's popular "Hannity & Colmes" stars Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, who champion the plight of the underprivileged, direct from their VIP table at Elaine's. The show's most popular segment, a monthly "Oppressed Fest" telethon, raises funds for the hosts' pet causes, such as the inclusion of Mexican migrant workers in the song, "The Farmer in the Dell," and their ongoing protest over the appalling lack of Native American characters on the HBO series "The Sopranos."

*"Big Brother Baldwin": An ingenious blend of reality TV, political pot-stirring and sibling rivalry finds screen star Alec Baldwin facing off with actor-activist brothers Billy, Stephen and Daniel in a series of heated competitions, including fighting over the latest issue of Mother Jones magazine. The program ends after Week 1, when viewers vote all of the brothers off the show.

*"Barney!": In this early morning kids' show, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) dons purple pinstripes and teaches tolerance to the toddler set via his signature brand of funny filibusters and silly songs, such as "If You're Living an Alternative Lifestyle and You Know It, Clap Your Hands." Among Barney's regular guests is Stanley the Storyteller, who delights children with such engaging tales as "Spencer Has One Mommy, One Daddy, Several 'Uncles' and Some Weird Guy Sleeping on the Couch."

*"Woody Harrelson's Hemp World": Former "Cheers" star and public demonstrator nonpareil Harrelson devotes 30 smokin' minutes of broadcast time to the magic of marijuana. Helping the actor light a fire under his campaign for the legalization of pot are panelists Willie Nelson, Whitney Houston and former Supreme Court nominee Douglas Ginsburg. Bill Clinton appears, but doesn't inhale.)

*"Aerobics With Asner": If you thought you loved TV's pugnacious Lou Grant, wait until you see him in a leopard bodysuit. In this grueling, hourlong fitness program, unrepentant liberal Ed Asner forces flabby conservatives and corpulent corporate fat cats to bend to his will--literally--through such exercises as Pro-Choice Push-Ups, Free-Speech Free-Weights and Asner's piece de resistance, a cardio-crunching session on the "Lefty Lifecycle."

*"The MacNeil-Streisand NewsHour": Six years after ending his landmark partnership with PBS' Jim Lehrer, Robin MacNeil returns to television, sharing the anchor desk with celebrated chanteuse and self-appointed public servant Barbra Streisand, who offers up such trenchant commentary as "Yentl and Yasser: The Road to Peace?" and her Peabody Award-winning screed, "The President Has Two Faces."

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