Jon Stewart's 'Daily Show' interview with President Obama scores big ratings

By Lisa de Moraes
Friday, October 29, 2010; C05

Just under 3 million people watched "The Daily Show's" Jon Stewart interview President Obama on Wednesday night -- the Comedy Central late-night show's third-biggest audience ever.

The two bigger episodes?

Both back in '08 -- when Stewart interviewed presidential candidate Obama (3.58 million viewers) and, separately, when he interviewed future first lady Michelle Obama (2.92 million).

Stewart conducted the groundbreaking interview in Washington -- he's here all week, getting ready for the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on Saturday.

"Groundbreaking how?"

We're glad you asked.

"The Daily Show" says that it was the first time in the history of the Comedy Central show that an episode consisted of a guest interview for the whole show.

It was also the first time a sitting president was called "dude" during an interview -- which was discussed, dissected, analyzed and tsk-tsked.

But, wait, there's more!

We're all but certain that it's the first time a sitting president has had to wade through two long commercial breaks in the course of being interviewed. Two very long ad breaks.

And we're absolutely positive that it's the first time a network has put a sitting president in the position of immediately following a promo for its show "Pretend Time," in which two cherubic children see a "vomiting" bald-headed tiny man's "head" pop out from the zipper of a man's pants causing the children to shout happily, "Mr. Creepy!"

Nicely played, Comedy Central!

Sarah Palin hedges

Less than 24 hours after Stewart's interview with Obama aired, Mary Hart, the grande dame of "Entertainment Tonight" was seen on her show interviewing Sarah Palin at her home in Wasilla, Alaska.

The former Republican vice presidential candidate -- and star of a soon-to-be TLC network reality series -- told Hart that she will run for president in 2012 "if there's nobody else to do it."

And, so there's no confusion, Palin explained that by "nobody else to do it," she means she is going to take "a real close look at the lay of the land, to consider whether there are those with that common sense, conservative, pro-Constitution passion, whether there are already candidates out there who can do the job or whether there's nobody willing to do it, to make the tough choices and not care what the critics are going to say about you, just going forward according to what I think the priorities should be."

And Mary Hart was wearing something very stylish and nodded sweetly and moved on to the next question on her script.

They also talked about Palin's daughter, Bristol, performing on ABC's hit reality series "Dancing with the Stars." Big news: Mama Grizzly told Hart that she won't be in the "Dancing" audience next week because she will be covering the midterm elections for Fox News Channel. And, she forecast, Bristol was going to "kick my butt" in the ratings. Well, that's a no-brainer.

Paula Abdul will 'Dance'

Those clever schedulers at CBS have decided to air Paula Abdul's new dance competition series on the same night as "American Idol."

"Live to Dance" will premiere with a two-hour episode on Tuesday, Jan. 4 and then move to its regular time period on Wednesday, Jan. 5, airing from 8 to 9 p.m. Those initial broadcasts are all about the auditions, and the show goes live the following week -- just like "Idol."

Abdul, who famously walked from "Idol" during contract talks after failing to secure the kind of stupid money that Fox and the show's producers were willing to dole out to host Ryan Seacrest and judge Simon Cowell, is billed as an executive producer on the show as well as "mentor" and "lead expert."

CBS now airs "Survivor" on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. and the slotting of "Live to Dance" coincides with the six-week hiatus between "Survivor's" fall and spring editions. Abdul's show is also moving into Wednesday night a week sooner than Fox, lately, has launched its Wednesday "Idol" edition in January. This may give her some breathing room and, CBS hopes, some sampling before Fox's ratings behemoth starts its next season.

And, typically, "Idol's" Wednesday orgy-of-product- placement-and-results show airs at 9, not 8. But of course, Fox has been known to move "Idol's" Wednesday show to 8, blow it up into a two-hour broadcast and otherwise pretty much do whatever the heck it wants. And, it would be so Fox-like if, now that CBS has announced its Abdul plans, Fox made sure "Idol" crashed her party.

In which case, "Idol" is sure to pound Abdul in the ratings. But, had CBS scheduled "Live to Dance" anywhere else on its schedule, The Reporters Who Cover Television would be devoting two sentences to the announcement. Instead, today, they're all writing bigger stories about "Abdul vs. 'Idol.' " Which brings us back to "Those clever schedulers at CBS . . . "

'Big Love' will return

HBO announced that its polygamy drama "Big Love" will return for its fifth, and final, season on Sunday, Jan. 16.

That tippity-tap-tap noise you hear is the sound of us breaking into a Happy Dance.

Much verbal trilling followed in HBO's e-mail.

HBO Programming President Michael Lombardo: "It has been an honor and pleasure to work with series creators Mark V. Olsen -- 'V' to his friends -- and Will Scheffer on this unique and provocative series."

Okay, yes, we made up that "V to his friends" bit.

V and Scheffer: "When we created BIG LOVE in 2002, we had a strong conception of the journey the Henrickson family would make over the course of the series, of the story we had to tell. While we were in the writers' room this year shaping our fifth season, we discovered that we were approaching the culmination of that story."

No, we did not make up that we-discovered-the-story-had- ended gag. It just seems like it. They really wrote that.

In case you've missed it, "Big Love" is about a guy named Bill Henrickson, who lives in Salt Lake City, and who has three wives -- Barb, Nicki and Margene -- living in three consecutive houses with their nine kids, leading lives of quiet desperation -- all of which could be solved quickly if someone would give the women little hatchets. Bill Paxton, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloe Sevigny and Ginnifer Goodwin star.

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