That said, I’m honestly surprised.
While coming in first in its time perid — beating the Total Viewer average of the 10pm programs on MSNBC, CNN and HLN combined — FNC’s “Real American Stories with Sarah Palin” was down substantially versus the performance of “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren” last Thursday as well as that program’s Thursday average for the month of March. “Real American Stories” delivered 2.073 million Total Viewers and 472k A25-54 viewers, down 10% versus last Thursday among Total Viewers and down 28% in A25-54. For all Thursdays in March 2010, the “Stories” premiere was down 10% among Total Viewers and down 19% in A25-54.
Winning the time slot and crushing the competition is nice but par for the course for FNC these days. It’s the Greta comparisons that shocked me: The lure of Sarahcuda’s debut, crowned with the LL Cool J controversy, wasn’t enough to beat an average hour of “On the Record”? No matter how lame the format of the show was, I figured her star power would send it stratospheric.
Although in her defense, the format was awfully lame:
From start to finish this show felt like something that got cobbled together rather than a top down well planned and well coordinated special. There’s no cohesion between segments other than the umbrella “Real American Stories”…
It wasn’t tailored to Palin’s strengths. It was tailored to her weaknesses. What makes Palin the “big star”, the reason for FNC to land her in the first place, is her ability to riff on a variety of subjects but tailor them in ways that resonate with some people. But in a rigidly controlled special like this, Palin came off as stiff. Palin really couldn’t be Palin, though she did awkwardly try a couple of times. You could have plugged in a dozen FNC talents in her place and the result would have been pretty close to what you got. Maybe a bit better.
If FNC really wants to do a Palin hosted special it needs to do it right. It needs to start from scratch and tailor a show that utilizes her strengths. I can think of several scenarios right now that would really work well. But putting Palin in a paint by numbers format like what we saw tonight, where she doesn’t have the freedom to do what she does best, isn’t one of them. This was a wasted opportunity.
That’s from Inside Cable News; big-media reviews were less kind, although even they focused mainly on how lazy and formulaic the concept was rather than her performance. Now that I think of it, this isn’t the first time a conservative woman with a huge grassroots fan base has been saddled with a, shall we say, unfortunate program idea by FNC (“has the feel of a kids’ news show on Nickelodeon”). In fact, legend has it that a copy of that star-crossed pilot still exists on certain people’s back-up hard drives, ready to awaken from its slumber and return to the world at any time. Could be never, could be … tomorrow. Keep watching the skies, my friends…
Update: Conservatives 4 Palin points to this comment at TV Newser noting that ratings are down dramatically this week throughout cable news. I don’t know what the source is for those numbers, but can confirm that traffic has also been slow this week (today especially). Could be related to Holy Week.