Conversations With Michael Eisner: The First Conversations

We know what you'll be discussing around the watercooler this morning: how shitfaced you got at some bar last night in close proximity to a handful of underage starlets. Eventually, though, there will be a lull in that topic, and the guy who's been a little too quiet about the previous evening's escapades will sheepishly ask, "Hey, you catch Michael Eisner's new talk show last night?" There will be an awkward silence—a long one, the kind where you start to notice a spot in the carpet that's wearing thin, or your cubicle neighbor's razor bumps, and if you listen closely enough, you can almost hear the sound of your conversation dying. Luckily, Gawker Media jack-of-all-recaps Henry the Intern endured the maiden broadcast of Conversations with Michael Eisner on CNBC (an actual basic cable network, we're told) so that you can revive the flagging discussion with "Holy crap, Bran Ferren's paranoid futurism totally freaked my shit out!" instead of the usual, "And then he puked on my shoes once we were done making out in the bathroom line." His blow-by-blow follows after the jump:

There were no surprises in last night's debut episode of "Conversations with Michael Eisner." Every choice quote was previewed by David Carr in Monday's New York Times. Eisner seemed to give CNBC his best shot by selecting familiar guests, but the graphic packaging and cheesy voiceover made an otherwise smart dialogue feel like an informercial or advertorial.

The set, designed by Frank Gehry, was cold and metallic, reminiscent of the interior bow of a ship. What's the point of taping at Rockefeller Plaza if your set looks like a nuclear bunker?

Eisner's first guest, Martha Stewart, appeared constrained as she sat on the other side of a long, large table likely formed by the melding of some precious virgin wood. "This is definitely one lady who knows how to make lemonade from lemons," Eisner said upfront. As Stewart and Eisner agreed on the merits of micromanagement and strategies of synergy, I found myself distracted by the ever-present but useless ticker at the bottom of the screen displaying global weather forecasts (62/38 in Raleigh, 47/35 in London, 45/35 in Frankfurt). That has to go. Eisner told Stewart her "brand extension" is "awesome" while Stewart revealed that she strives for "excellence," not perfection.

The conversation turned gossipy as they shared opinions of Hillary Clinton. "I think she very clearly can be the candidate to be the next president," Eisner said. Stewart believes people "misunderstand Hillary and her stability," which "helped keep the American government stable."

Stewart allowed herself the opportunity to hit back at Donald Trump for his shots at her reality television failure. "This guy goes berserk," Eisner said. "Excellent description," Stewart responded. "I am a creative person. I would not want to be the second apprentice." She would have preferred to do "The Entrepreneur" and feels deceived by NBC.

Stewart talked about being friendly to her fellow inmates during her prison stint. "You certainly want to have people on your side," she said. "I made their days brighter." Eisner, though, shared that he finds it difficult to think when there is "no divider in the john." Too much information.

Eisner then sat down with Bran Ferren —"part innovator, part scientist." Ferren designed the Tower of Terror as Disney's "head of technology" under Eisner. On the design requirements of the free- fall ride, Ferren noted, "If you only kill one tenth of one percent of [your customers], it's not good for business."

Eisner pressed the bearded Ferren on the future of the United States. Ferren, who is developing a car that can avoid accidents and is working with government intelligence agencies, is concerned that research and development along with design and innovation are "rapidly disappearing." He predicted nanotechnology will be able to
clean arteries or provide permanent connections to the Internet to answer questions at any moment.

The final conversation was with Sir Howard Stringer, the CEO of Sony. There were no hard-hitting or unconventional questions about business, for better or for worse. Eisner played the Charlie Rose role surprisingly well, though with the same tendency to talk over his guests. Stringer said the Japanese executives in the company "sort of expect me to say something mildly idiotic."

Asked Eisner, "How do you compete against the iPod? Do you make a better technology or a better commercial?" Stringer replied, "That's very clever," then talked about the need to upgrade Sony's software to better compete: the merging of content, software, and technology is the challenge.

And there goes the hour. Is there hope for this show? The jury is out. At the conclusion, Eisner teased his upcoming interview with Regis Philbin, who harbors some beef about the cancellation of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire." Regis is no Martha and he's definitely not in Ferren's league. Hopefully Eisner won't succumb to the
ratings race for empty chitchat. At least get Tina Brown pronto.