Rick Kaplan's exit from The Early Show-less than three months after the veteran TV producer was brought in to turn around the troubled CBS morning programme-has never been adequately explained. CBS's valiant flacks said he needed a rest after working two jobs, and would be focus on the network's election coverage. Blog Jossip speculated that Kaplan wanted a pay rise that CBS News chief Sean McManus wasn't prepared to give; but it would be surprising for an executive to attempt renegotiation so soon after taking a new job. Here's a more plausible narrative. According to a CBS insider, Kaplan's big mistake was falling out with his boss' wife, Early Show presenter Julie Chen.
Kaplan's great plan for sweeps, the season during which networks put on crowd-pleasing stunts to show better viewer numbers for advertisers, was to send the morning show's presenters to Greensburg. The Kansas town had been devastated by a tornado, and Kaplan believed that a broadcast from the recovering town a year later would resonate with American viewers more than the exotic travels of rivals such as Matt Lauer of NBC's Today Show. "Kaplan carried his 'sweeps playbook' around like a junior varsity coach," says one of his critics.
Most of Kaplan's colleagues hated the pet project, which was expensive as well as "hyper-cheesy". Anchor Julie Chen simply refused to go, despite Kaplan's angry demands. Chen has the clout to back up her defiance: she's married to CBS chief executive Les Moonves. Kaplan was overheard yelling: "Fuck her: she may be sleeping with my boss, but she works for me." Wrong. At CBS, everybody works for Moonves, as Kaplan discovered when he was unceremoniously sent off on forced vacation.