Great news for Comcast shareholders, for Democratic operatives and strategists and politicians, for champions of liberal causes, for media critics rooting for fiercer competition on the cable dial: MSNBC is following the programming instincts of Fox News Channel in filling out its cable lineup.
The Huffington Post yesterday reported that an MSNBC program named “The Cycle” will replace the vacancy in the afternoon schedule created by the departure of Dylan Ratigan. It’ll be a roundtable format. It’ll have some very opinionated voices. Most of them will be left-leaning: Touré, Salon’s Steve Kornacki and Krystal Ball. Throw in a countervailing conservative voice by the name of S.E. Cupp.
Plaudits go to MSNBC for knowing a successful format when they watch it. Fox News’s “The Five” shows us that friendly ensemble banter with a political edge creates lots of soundbites, lots of video worth clipping, not to mention ratings.
The shocking aspect of the rollout came through in the Huffington Post piece on the new show. For some reason, Touré, Kornacki, Ball, Cupp and executive producer Steve Friedman declined to thank programming genius Roger Ailes and his compatriots at Fox News for this gleaming new opportunity:
In the Thursday interview, Cupp, Kornacki, Touré and Ball all jokingly pretended not to know what “The Five” is, and Friedman flatly rejected the notion that his new show was derivative.
“When ‘The Five’ started, did you go and ask them if they were doing ‘The View’?” he asked. “When ‘The View’ started, did you ask them if they were doing the ‘Today’ show?”
“The concept of an ensemble show is extraordinarily old,” Touré added.
So if denial and high-minded evasion of the truth are to be the staples of “The Cycle,” well, it’ll find lots of company on the cable dial. While the ensemble show may indeed be “extraordinarily old,” its rosy and profitable standing in the context of politically loaded cable TV is more recent. Almost one year old, to be more precise. That’s when “The Five” debuted.