Crossfire Canceled Again

CNN's effort to bring back a show that had outlived its prime years ago has, predictably, failed.

Crossfire

Last year, CNN brought back its long running battle of the partisan pundits series Crossfire as part of Jeffrey Zucker’s ongoing effort to remake the network, which had been struggling to keep up with Fox News Channel and, at the time, MSNBC. The format was slightly different, cut back to a half-hour, and had a rotating series of four hosts from the left and the right rather than a main stable of a prominent liberal and a prominent conservative. While there were sometimes guest appearances consisted of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Obama White House adviser Van Jones, conservative columnist S.E. Cupp, and former Obama campaign operative Stephanie Cutter. Many people greeted news of the show’s return with some confusion given the fact that there didn’t seem to be much of a demand for that type of programming, but the move clearly seemed to be CNN’s effort to appeal to the same kind of audience that the more confrontational ideology-based shows on the other news networks have become known for.

Just over a year after the show premiered, though, it has been officially canceled:

It was a short-lived return for CNN’s “Crossfire” as the network has canceled the political debate show, TVNewser has learned.

Returning to the air in September, 2013 after an eight-year absence, the new version of “Crossfire” featured former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former White House staffers Van Jones and Stephanie Cutter, and former MSNBC host S.E. Cupp.

All four hosts will remain with the network as political commentators. Some of the staff has already been absorbed into other DC-based programs, while the remainder have been encouraged to apply for open positions in the bureau.

“Crossfire” went missing from the lineup during multiple breaking news cycles this year. Starting in early March, the program was yanked from the lineup as CNN produced near-nonstop coverage of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. The program was again taken off-air in mid-July before the downing of MH17 dominated the news cycle.

Last month, CNN told us the show would remain on hiatus “for awhile more,” and today, official word that the show will not be coming back. In its first iteration, “Crossfire” ran from 1982 until 2005.

I will admit to watching the show a few times during the time that it was on, and it was for the most part thoroughly unwatchable. None of the four hosts had any of the factors that made the show unique and even fun to watch at times in its original iteration, and the partisan battles that would often unfold between them, or between one of the hosts and the various guests that they would have on the show, were as tedious and uninteresting as the ones you can find on the average show on MSNBC or Fox. Moreover, much as the original show went downhill after the original pairing of Tom Braden and Pat Buchanan, or the follow-up pairing between Buchanan and Michael Kinsley, were replaced by the likes of Bob Beckel and Tucker Carlson, there just wasn’t anything compelling about Gingrich, Jones, Cupp, or Cutter that made one want to tune in day after to see what they might be arguing about next. All that you saw was the same old tired partisan talking points being argued back and forth that led to the famous Jon Stewart tirade that ended up spelling the death knell for the original version of the show. In that case, though, the show at least ended with something of a bang, this show ended with a whimper.

From the beginning, the show never really performed well in the ratings to begin with, but I tend to think that this isn’t what did the show in. Starting with the crisis in Ukraine after the Olympics and then continuing through the search for Malaysian Air Flight 370, the growing crisis in the Middle East, the shoot down of Malaysian Air Flight 17, the protests in Ferguson, and most recently Ebola, CNN’s decision to stay true to its reputation as the “Breaking News” network took priority over this new show. If one was watching The Situation Room as the time approached the bottom of the 6pm hour in the East, the words “Crossfire won’t be seen tonight” were almost inevitably going to come out of Wolf Blitzer’s mouth. The show would be off the air for months, and, interestingly, nobody seemed to miss it at all. Perhaps that might have been different had the time to build up an audience, but I tend to suspect not. For its time and in its prime, Crossfire made for great television. It’s 2013 reboot, though, was just another version of the same “partisan hackery” that Stewart criticized in 2004 and which has become far too prevalent elsewhere in cable news programming on other networks.  Crossfire is dead, again, and what the experiment proved in that nobody should have tried to revive that particular Frankenstein’s  monster.

FILED UNDER: US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Eric Florack says:

    CNN has confirmed why their numbers are iin John Crapper’s elegant device.

  2. Pinky says:

    How can you say that there didn’t seem to be a demand for shows with partisan panelists feuding with each other? That seems to be the only thing on cable news. If CNN wants to be the adult in the room with real news rather than opinion, then I guess it’d make sense to drop the show. But they could probably do better to return it to an hour-long format, hire non- or not-so-partisans, and turn it into more of an adult show. (I don’t watch CNN, so I have no idea what they’re aiming for.)

  3. James Pearce says:

    It’s 2013 reboot, though, was just another version of the same “partisan hackery” that Stewart criticized in 2004

    Bringing in SE Cupp seemed like an attempt to avoid the hackery, but then again, bringing in Gingrich and Jones pretty much assured that the hackery would drown her out.

  4. Ron Beasley says:

    And here I thought that CNN itself had been canceled!

  5. James in Silverdale, WA says:

    Less than five million people watch all cable news channels combined on a daily basis. Their relevance grows more dim by the hour.

    http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/2014/10/21/cable-news-ratings-for-saturday-sunday-october-18-19-2014/317362/

  6. Ron Beasley says:

    @James in Silverdale, WA: Indeed, FOX is thought to be an influence but in reality less than 1% of the population actually watches it and most of those are DC politicians.

  7. wr says:

    @James Pearce: “Bringing in SE Cupp seemed like an attempt to avoid the hackery”

    Yes, in the same way as bringing Alex Rodriguez onto your team would be an attempt to avoid doping.

  8. Eric Florack says:

    @Ron Beasley: Not a bad idea, really.

  9. James Pearce says:

    @wr:

    Yes, in the same way as bringing Alex Rodriguez onto your team would be an attempt to avoid doping.

    Well, SE Cupp is a pro-gay, atheist conservative. That’s rather a horse of a different color, don’t you think?

    Not saying I agree with her. In fact, I often don’t.

  10. MikeSJ says:

    Just looking at the picture for this story – just seeing Newt Gingrich’s face makes me cringe.

    Why? Why in the world did they bring that lying degenerate hack back???

    He hasn’t had a new idea or been relevant for years and still he is trotted out to bloviate, over and over again.

  11. Gustopher says:

    They really should have brought back Jon Stewart as a special guest for their last episode. These people have no sense of history or drama.

  12. Crusty Dem says:

    @Gustopher:

    These people have no sense of history or drama.

    Or shame. Or humor. Or direction.

  13. T says:

    @James in Silverdale, WA:

    Their relevance grows more dim by the hour.

    just like the aging baby boomers that watch

  14. wr says:

    @James Pearce: “Well, SE Cupp is a pro-gay, atheist conservative. That’s rather a horse of a different color, don’t you think?”

    And yet, when she goes on TV, she repeats the same old Repubican talking points.

    I know that’s the game. My wife had a friend who is a very brilliant woman. First female managing editor of the Harvard Law Review. (She was in the class behind Obama’s.) And yet her great goal in life is to be a talk radio personality — she even subs for Hugh Hewitt. And to do so, she has to turn herself into an idiot, blindly repeating the same crap they all do.

    I don’t really care what Cupp’s private views are. On TV, she’s just another hack.

  15. Kylopod says:

    @James Pearce:

    Well, SE Cupp is a pro-gay, atheist conservative. That’s rather a horse of a different color, don’t you think?

    Atheist. Yeah. Sure.

    I remember her on Bill Maher a while back promoting a book of hers which claimed that the liberal media (by which she meant the mainstream media, of course) was engaged in an assault on religion. She was very insistent that she was personally an atheist, BUT…. religious people are treated so unfairly by the media, she said, that she had to speak out in their defense. Maher pointed out that many of the liberal commentators she accused of attacking religion were in fact religious people themselves, and she equated creationist-bashing with religion-bashing, among other things.

    I’m not an atheist myself, and I think Bill Maher is an obnoxious bigot when it comes to religion. But here he was right on the mark. He showed how paper-thin her arguments were, and she didn’t seem to have any reply.

    It’s important to be able to tell the difference between independent thinking and concern trolling.

  16. Andre Kenji says:

    Crossfire could have been worked if they had hired real journalists instead of Partisan Hacks.

  17. James Pearce says:

    @wr:

    I don’t really care what Cupp’s private views are. On TV, she’s just another hack.

    That’s true to the extent that when a commentator comes on to represent a political view, they’re hacking. But can’t there be degrees of hack? Good hacks versus bad hacks? Or even, let’s say, helpful hacks and not so helpful hacks?

    I think we can all say we like our helpful hacks.

    @Kylopod:

    It’s important to be able to tell the difference between independent thinking and concern trolling.

    I didn’t see her on Bill Maher, but I did read a column she wrote on the subject, and yes, I thought it was pitiful.

    But she did refuse to go to CPAC over GOProud. No points for that?

  18. Tillman says:

    So Crossfire was done in because CNN’s audience would rather watch baseless and absurd speculation over a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean? That doesn’t speak well of CNN’s audience.

  19. beth says:

    @Tillman: But they had a guy in an airplane simulator for days!!! I was watching to see when he’d throw open the door and storm out screaming “I went to journalism school for this?”.

  20. Kylopod says:

    @James Pearce:

    But she did refuse to go to CPAC over GOProud. No points for that?

    Maybe…but that was after she joined MSNBC, where she has an incentive to bolster her Reasonable Conservative cred.

    That’s true to the extent that when a commentator comes on to represent a political view, they’re hacking.

    Sincerely expressing your political views isn’t hacking; cheerleading for your “team” is. In theory pundits are supposed to represent the former category, but in reality, they often don’t.