3.2 Million Pay a Visit to Paris Via CNN

Paris Hilton
Paris Hilton leaves the CNN building in Los Angeles after taping an interview with Larry King. (Fred Prouser - Reuters)
By Lisa de Moraes
Friday, June 29, 2007

Larry King tripled his audience by lobbing softball questions at a vacant-looking Paris Hilton in her first TV chat since her release from jail early Tuesday.

After which, the son of Gloria Vanderbilt more than doubled his usual "Anderson Cooper 360°" crowd with his neo-ironic performance of a journalist holding his nose and whining about having to analyze King's interview with the privileged child of a gillionaire. In so doing, Cooper joined all those media columnists who for weeks had been sniffing about journalism embracing tabloid instincts in re the Paris story, only to stick their own greedy snouts into the trough holding the juiciest pop-culture gruel served up in ages.

And Barbara Walters sat bolt upright on her Disney Throne of Principles, mumbling "tawdry" while dialing Lionel Richie on his private line to say "Hi!"

Hilton's Wednesday night chat on "Larry King Live"-- her first since being sent to the slammer for about 23 days with only bologna sandwiches and a Bible to comfort her -- clocked about 3.2 million viewers. They came to hear her declare she had emerged from the ordeal a new, improved Paris Hilton, one dedicated to raising money for kids and to fight breast cancer and multiple sclerosis, one determined not to let her voice get really high when she gets nervous, one who will never again be sent to prison for driving with a suspended license and violating probation on an alcohol-related reckless-driving charge but who will instead call the family driver to take her to In-N-Out Burger.

Nearly 2 million of those viewers were 50 and older, which is par for King's course, but not exactly the demo Paris presumably was targeting when Mommy and Daddy were trying to sell their little girl to the highest bidder at a broadcast network.

(Babs Walters had had the inside track -- simpering on her daytime show "The View" June 11 about having chatted up Momsie on the phone the day before and even receiving a collect call from Incarcerated Paris herself. Only then Daddums reportedly called to say another network that starts with N-B-C was talking about tacking another zero onto the $100,000 ABC had agreed to pony up for use of the family photo album and home videos. Word of the negotiations mysteriously leaked to the media, scuttling the negotiations and paving the way for King to land the "get.")

Cooper's post-interview "360" telecast clocked nearly 2 million viewers -- a big jump from his calendar-year average of just 812,000.

To put these numbers in perspective, Paris got nowhere near the crowd who'd tuned in to King's show in 2005 when a JetBlue plane had to make an emergency landing with its landing gear on the fritz. Nearly 5 million were glued to his coverage that night. Because we don't just love tabloid journalism -- we also love tragedy, or the possibility of seeing it.

And speaking of Walters, when Star Jones went on King's show two days after she ambushed Walters on "The View" and announced she was leaving before Walters could announce she'd given Star the hook, "LKL" logged 3 million viewers, nearly matching Paris's numbers.

But, of course, all these stats combined can't match that "LKL" telecast in 1993 when Al Gore went mano a mano with Ross Perot, attracting a morbid 16.8 million viewers -- the biggest number of all time for an ad-supported cable telecast.

* * *

Defying prayer chains, ABC yesterday announced it will bring back "According to Jim" for a seventh season of 18 episodes, setting off rampant speculation among The Reporters Who Cover Television that suits at the network must finally have seen the sixth episode of "Cavemen." (6 + 18 = 24, a.k.a. a full season.)

"Cavemen" -- and yes, the writing and the acting are far superior in the Geico auto-insurance cavemen ads -- is the only new laugh-tracked sitcom on ABC's fall lineup.

In its announcement, ABC reminded those of you who have managed to block all memory of "Jim" that it's about a guy named Jim, played by Jim Belushi, who "has it all," including "a gorgeous wife, Cheryl (Courtney Thorne-Smith), whom he challenges with his stubborn manliness."

Star Belushi is quoted promising this season would top all the rest, by which we presume he means a higher concentration of scenes in which he appears without a shirt. To be fair, the Lesser Belushi's flabby, hairy torso is less repulsive than the matted-hairy torso of the lead caveman to which you are going to be treated in the first episode of "Cavemen."

ABC suits kept insisting when they unveiled their fall "Jim"-less prime-time lineup last month that the show had not been canceled, an order for a midseason pickup was delayed as they haggled over number of episodes to be ordered, etc.

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