Friday, May 30, 2008 Rates The Cable News Talkin' Heads: CNN Edition

[Yep, yet another New Feature. Since 75% of my TeeVee time is spent watching channels like CNN, MSNBC, and yes, even Fox News, I figured I'd do a bit of investigative journalism of my own. Our new who-knows-how-often series, AverageBro Rates The Cable Talkin' Heads, ranks each station's various on-air personalities in three simple categories: Good, Bad, and Ugly. Enjoy Responsibly.]

I generally watch CNN more than MSNBC and Fox News. There are lots of reasons for this, but they're all pretty superficial and don't have much, if anything to do with the commentators and opinions voiced. Basically, it boils down to two things: location (the channel is an easy to remember 202 on DirectTV) and presentation (it's the only one of the three shown in HD), which are equally important.

That said, even though Fox News absolutely owns it in the ratings, there are some other reasons why CNN edges the other two channels in my overall taste test. It's visual presentation (HD aside) is cleaner and far easier on the eye than the cluttered tickers of Fox News. It's on-air hosts are less opinionated that such unabashed-Obama backers like Keith Olbermann. And best of all, it's the one network with more than simple token minority representation. When black folks are brought on to talk, they are generally able to get their points off without being cut off, and sometimes, they aren't even completely ignored (I'm lookin' at you Juan Williams. And you're lookin' hella suspect, bruh.) when they say something of value.

On to the ratings...

The Good

Roland Martin - I'll be honest, I didn't care much for the motormouthed Roland Martin back when he was plying his trade on America's Black Forum. So when he was made a regular contributor to this year's election coverage, I wasn't impressed. But Martin quickly won me over by being the "barbershop voice of reason", especially when discussing primary returns. He's obviously an Obama supporter, but he calls em' like he sees em' (remember his response to the Rebb'n Wright/Press Club fiasco?) and I tend to agree with him more often than not.

Wolf Blitzer - Unlike his fellow show hosts, Blitzer seldom veers over the fine line between journalism and opinion, usually staying centered and objective. In a world where white dudes are generally clayfaced, you gotta give dude some cool points for that Miami Vice style stubbly beard. Plus, he's a major Wizards fan, so he's alright in my book. Hell, if Bill O'Reilly cheered on the Blue, Black, and Bronze, he just might be alright in my book. Might.

Jamal Simmons - This unabashed Obama Stan supporter is usually pitted against Clintonista Gloria Borger, and always seems to hold his own while always maintaining his composure. Hmmmm, sound familiar? Perhaps my suggestion that he end up as Obama's Press Secretary isn't as farfetched as it seems. Take that Scott McClellan.

Anderson Cooper - Yeah, we know dude's prolly in the closet/DL/whatever but you can't possibly question his professionalism. He seldom get rattled and he doesn't let guests get away with BS answers. You can't ask for much more.

Jack Cafferty - I never dug his crochety ole' man routine on American Morning, but as Wolf Blitzer's "keep-it-real" weedcarrier, he's about as close to unbiased truth without an ulterior motive as you'll see on this network.

Kiran Chetry - I never really dug Soledad O'Brien's code-switching routine on American Morning either, so when she got bagged and replaced with this Fox News vet, I was happy. She's away on maternity leave now, and the show hasn't been the same since.

Honorable Mention: Larry King, Fredicka Whitfield, Jeffrey Toobin, Suzanne Malveaux, Veronica De La Cruz, Leslie Sanchez, Donna Brazile

The Bad

Campbell Brown - How in the holy Hades did this chick get a serious journalism gig? If she isn't busy giggling like a 5th grader at a Hannah Montana concert, she's brushing her hair outta her eyes, adjusting her too-short skirts, and generally going overboard with the Clinton-stannery. I'm not sayin' the woman slept her way to the top, but I bet you a case of Cyber CapriSuns she knows her way around a casting couch. Sheez.

Amy Holmes - I erroneously included Amy in my epic 13 Debits To The Black Race post last month, damn near prompting a coup amongst the AverageCommenters in the process. This was a bad call, mostly because ya'll disagreed with me, but also because she didn't do anything to warrant inclusion on the list. Reality is, I just included her there because I don't agree with any of her views, and she seems like the sorta chick who'd be generally annoying in person. Seriously, if she worked in your office, would you cc: her on the email lunch invite when you were rollin' 12 deep to go catch the NCCA tourney over wings at Hooters? I think not.

Soledad O'Brien - Soledad was the subject of one of my first posts here at My feeling about her now is much as it was then. She seems like the ultimate opportunist, who picks and chooses which ethnicity to identify with (Latina on Tuesday, Black on Friday, racially ambigous the rest of the time) when it's nice and convenient. Sorry homegirl, I'm still not feelin' it.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta - The only thing worse than a guy who plays a Doctor on TV is a guy who plays a Know-It-All Jackass on TV.

Erica Hill - If you've never tuned in to AC360 and caught Hill's routine, you'll prolly miss this one entirely. Rumor has it that she was brought over from Headline News to serve as Anderson Cooper's wigbrusher because they wanted to squelch the perception that he's a switch-hitter. Watching Hill playfully flirt with Cooper each night, is comedic gold. She makes googly eyes, dances in her seat, throws off some odd facial tics, and smiles ear-to-ear, even when talking about such a morbid topic as a tsunami or horrific plane crash. He pretends to flirt back with her, but his body language is the same as my son's when presented with a bowl of peas. You connect the dots.

Diss-Honorable Mention: John Roberts, Ali Velshi, Miles O'Brien, Betty Nguyen, David Gergen, Kyra Phillips, Rick Sanchez

The Ugly

Dana Bash - I think Dana Bash is an excellent journalist. She covers the McCain campaign while on the road, yet somehow managers to remain objective and pretty transparent when discussing things from an Insider PoV? So why is she on this list? Uh, have you seen her photo? That is one odd lookin' chick. The perpetual deer-in-headlights eyes. The narrow, yet long face. The cheek to cheek smile. The rapid-fire blinking. Dana Bash has a face made for radio. And yeah, I know that wasn't nice, but c'mon, how could I resist?

John King - The Czar of The Telestrator himself is here because he's the ultimate one-trick-pony. He mans the Magic Multi-Touch Collaboration Wall, which is a fancy version of Google Maps that shows precinct by precinct election results. This is generally a pretty cool gimmick, but dude looked like a complete tool the night of the Indiana Primary when he kept playing around and touching the screen for seemingly hours as we awaited Lake County's results. And did I mention he just got married to Dana Bash a few weeks ago?

Lou Dobbs - Did you know "Mr. Xenophobic" himself is the real life son of a Texas propane salesman? No, seriously. So while it's only apropos that he looks just like a grownup Bobby Hill from King Of The Hill, the similarities end there. Dude is so spiteful towards Mexicans, I'm wondering if he had some traumatic childhood experience in Ciudad Juárez. Just watch his show, grab a scorecard, and count the number of times the phrases "illegal alien", "borders" and "homeland security" are uttered before the first commercial break. Oddly enough, he's married to a Latina, so go figure. And what's up with that Barbara Wa-Wa style soft-focus lense? Is it just me, or is that sorta weird for a 60 year old dude?

TJ Holmes - I know I am about to piss off a nice chunk of my female readers, but ya' boy TJ really showed his ass a couple of months ago when he was doing his HBCU tour, back when CNN was going in heavy on that Race In America grizzly. Dude went to my alma mater, chose the dumbest, more ignorant, and poorly informed students to put on air, edited their comments, and framed them in a way that made it sound like my school was full of America-hatin' racists. Then again, TJ went to the University of Arkansas, so clearly he isn't qualified to discuss HBCUs objectively. I know some of you ladies like him cause he's light-skinnded and used to date Chili from TLC, but keep it in perspective.

Paul Begala - Watching this dude get absolutely ethered by Donna Brazille a few weeks back was must-see TV. It's one thing to talk recklessly while trying to defend your candidate of choice. It's quite another to play right into those Chris Kattan SNL impersonations.

Candy Crowley - Another consummate pro, Candy doesn't really deserve being on this list. But since I'm being superficial anyway, why not? Seriously has anyone else noticed that rain, sleet, or snow, Candy Crowley is always reporting from outdoors? During the Iowa primary, when it had to be in the low-teens, if not worse, they had the nerve to make her stand outside in hypothermia inducing temps. Meanwhile, the equally good Suzanne Malveaux gets to hold court in Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Somebody explain that one for me? Stand up for yourself and demand a desk gig, Candy! I'm sure Malveaux gets the plum gigs because she looks nicer, but you deserve better.

Gloria Borger - I had to save the best for last of course. Borger's "I'm Independent, I just happen to like Clinton" routine wore thin after Super Tuesday. You often get the impression she's just disagreeing with Martin and Simmons simply for the sake of disagreement. Would someone can her already?

Diss-Honorable Mention: Jamie McIntyre, Tonie Harris, Don Lemon, Alex Castellanos

Question: Assuming you made it to the end of this post, am I pretty much spot-on with these ratings or losin' my mind? Do I need to buy a premium cable package or what?

If you're clueless about who all these folks are, peep All Things CNN for photos and other general stalkerdom fandom.

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