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Keeping up with E!’s defense of its Kardashian wedding coverage

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E! network continues to do damage control over its Kim Kardashian made-for-TV wedding nightmare.

In case you’ve been living under a flat rock: There is a fury in the Twittersphere — and among The Reporters Who Cover Television — that the network was in cahoots with its brightest star and that the Kardashian family put over some serious oompus boompus on the American public with “Kim’s Fairytale Wedding: A Kardashian Event.”

“Any insinuation that E! and producers orchestrated Kim’s wedding is completely false,” E! said this week. “The Kardashians have authentically lived their lives on camera for a long time, and Kim’s wedding is one of the many real-life events that the family has shared with viewers, from Mason’s birth to coping with their father’s death to Khloe and Lamar’s wedding.

In round numbers: Kim Kardashian’s marriage to NBA player Kris Humphries began with a lavish (some report it cost $10 million) wedding Aug. 20 and lasted just 72 days.

That was just long enough for E! to produce, and hang on to, a two-night, four-hour special. E! held the special until Oct. 9 and 10, so as to coincide with the season finale of Season 6 of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.”

When Part 1 ran Sunday, Oct. 9, at 8 p.m., it snagged an average of 4.4 million viewers. That day was the highest rated overall in E! history. The unveiling of Part 2 of the orgy-of-excess wedding special did nearly as well, logging an average of 4 million viewers.

In all, E! ran 32 hours of Kardashian wedding coverage that week.

On Oct. 31, Kardashian filed for divorce, rather than an annulment, which surprised some reporters. Were we a cynic, we might suggest that’s because “Kim’s Nightmare Divorce: A Kardashian Event” is a much sexier name for the next four-hour TV special than “Kim’s Nightmare Annulment.”

Kardashian came under so much attack after filing for divorce that she felt compelled to issue a statement insisting that she had married for love, not ratings. But she conceded that she might have ignored early warning signs because she hadn’t wanted to disappoint people. E!, meanwhile, did what E! does best: opportunistic scheduling.

Remember when Amy Winehouse died and E! dusted off its “True Hollywood Story” on her and slapped it on the air ASAP? E! did the same with “True Hollywood Story: Arnold & Maria” when Maria Shriver filed for divorce from Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In this case, E! moved up the umpteenth rerun play of the Kardashian wedding, which had been scheduled to run Wednesday and Thursday nights of this week, to Monday and Tuesday nights. This is called “reacting to the news,” and E! doesn’t have the monopoly on this programming strategy.

Ever notice how when some old movie star dies, networks dust off their “Biography” on the guy or their newsmagazine interview with the guy from a few years back, or they blow out their schedule to make way for a Dead Guy Movie Marathon?

But Tuesday afternoon, after airing Monday night’s rerun of Part 1, E! suddenly changed its mind and decided to leave Part 2 where it was originally scheduled, on Thursday night.

Some in the press took this to mean E! had succumbed to pressure from the Kardashian family, their exec — and E! BFF Ryan Seacrest — or suddenly had grown a conscience.

Of course, another theory — we’re just throwing this out for consideration — is that ratings for Monday night come out Tuesday afternoon, so that’s right about the time E! suits would have learned that Part 1 only logged 270,000 viewers. That’s likely because the Comcast-owned network had no time to promote the scheduling change, and maybe also because Halloween is an important night of revelry for Kardashian fanatics.

Despite this apparent mea culpa, some members of the press and the Twittersphere were not satisfied and continued to bash E! for, as the New York Times put it, “the wedding special’s continuing to run after the marriage was off,” like E! was perpetrating some kind of outrage.

ABC pickups

ABC has given full-season orders to new series “Once Upon a Time,” “Last Man Standing” and “Happy Endings.”

But its new retro-chic drama “Pan Am” only got an order for five more scripts. That’s better than nothing, but still, it’s not the ringing endorsement the producers hoped for.

“Once Upon a Time,” the fairy-tale drama featuring Snow White, the Evil Queen, Rumpelstiltskin and Geppetto — yes, seriously — is a hit, which we’re sure says something about the state of the country. More than 12 million people are watching, and it tops new dramas with 18- to 49-year-old viewers, who are advertiser catnip.

Meanwhile, though TV critics loathed Tim Allen’s uber-retro “manly man emasculated” sitcom “Last Man Standing,” viewers loved it — 13 million watched its premiere, making it the biggest 8 p.m. comedy debut on any network in more than seven years. Airing at 8 means it had to self-start — no watch-us-kill-Charlie-Sheen-and-put-his-ashes-in-a-DustBuster lead-in audience of 30 million here!

“Happy Endings” is not a new comedy series; it debuted in spring but only had a short order going into the new season despite its plum post-“Modern Family” time slot. It’s losing a lot of its “Modern Family” lead-in audience — the most recent episode logged fewer than 8 million viewers — but its ratings are growing, and that’s something.

CNN’s best a.m. idea yet

CNN has a better idea for its morning show.

Yes, another better idea.

It will star Soledad O’Brien.

Yes, again.

The cable news network announced Thursday that it’s launching a “new format of news and conversation in the morning,” which will include a 7 to 9 show anchored by O’Brien. Soledad’s gig — which will debut next year — will be a “conversational ensemble program” that will explore “top issues of the day” while “opening the conversation to people from all walks of life.”

But she’s not giving up her day job as a special correspondent working on CNN documentaries.

Since 2001, the network has telecast “American Morning” from 6 to 9 a.m. Originally the show was hosted by Paula Zahn. Then CNN had a better idea, and Bill Hemmer was named Paula’s co-anchor in 2002.

Then Paula jumped to prime time and, after a couple of fill-ins, Soledad became Bill’s co-host in 2003.

Then CNN had a better idea: In ’05, Bill left CNN and was replaced on the show by Miles O’Brien.

Then CNN had a better idea in 2007 and replaced Miles and Soledad with John Roberts and Kiran Chetry.

Then John left CNN, and the network had a better idea: Have TJ Holmes and others rotate as hosts with Kiran.

Then TJ left. Then Kiran left.

These days, “American Morning” is hosted by Ali Velshi and Christine Romans, as well as Carol Costello.

We might have missed a few people.

This year, “American Morning” is averaging just less than 300,000 viewers. For comparison’s sake, Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends” is averaging 1 million viewers; MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” is averaging 450,000 viewers; and HLN’s “Morning Express” is averaging about 320,000.

The zenith of the “American Morning” ratings trajectory came in 2003, when the show averaged about 640,000 viewers. Back then, it was hosted by — oh, look at that! Soledad O’Brien! And Bill Hemmer, who’s now at Fox News Channel.

Anyway, the latest Better Idea has O’Brien’s new weekday show starting one hour later than “American Morning” (which begins at 6).

Under the Better Idea, CNN will also debut a 5-7 a.m. program anchored by onetime MSNBC reporter Ashleigh Banfield. Banfield will be joined by Chicago’s “NBC5 News Today” anchor Zoraida Sambolin. Why do we keep seeing Hoda and Kathie Lee?

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