CNN decided it was going to enlist Kathy Griffin, Lance Bass, and Anderson Cooper to give them a New Year's Eve as big and sparkly as the crystal monstrosity in Times Square. They got what they wanted, which they hated.
Yet again Kathy Griffin misbehaved spectacularly, dropping F-bombs, making jokes about cocaine and poppers, and chiding the Coop about jerking off while looking at himself in the mirror. The problem with this is that it goes against the uptight culture of the network. CNN is like your buttoned up older brother who was in the Young Democrats, doesn't think that anything is funny, and that news is a very, very serious business. Well, guess what CNN, your ratings are in the toilet because the audience doesn't want to be informed, they want to be entertained.
CNN thinks that providing good, quality news content will get people to tune in. They are wrong. Now people get their news from the internet, where CNN is king with the most popular website in the news category. Since everyone is well informed, when they turn on the tube, they want to see a song and dance like the 24-hour fairy tales spouted off by Fox News' army of talking frogs or MSNBC's liberal dog and pony Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow. Viewers want, well, exactly what CNN had programmed for New Year's Eve. The network finally provided the spectacle they needed to get everyone's attention and it is not what they wanted. CNN wants Matlock reruns and Metamucil commercials. They want stodgy.
Popeater gossip Rob Shuter reports that CNN will not be asking Griffin back for New Year's 2011. Shuter quotes a "CNN insider" saying, "She was a total embarrassment to the network that calls themselves 'The Most Trusted Name in News.' Even Anderson thinks it's time to say goodbye to Kathy." Of course he also gets the nominal "No decisions have been made yet regarding next year's show," from CNN's publicist, but we all know what that means.
The problem here is that CNN needs Kathy Griffin—who has several Emmys, a highly-rated and well-respected reality show, a lucrative stand up career, and a growing fan base of women and gays—more than she needs them. In fact, Kathy is probably the anti-stodgy cure for the whole damn network. Aside from her beautiful New Year's debacles of the past two years, her other appearances on the channel—filling in for Larry King with Levi Johnston and serenading Anderson Cooper for his birthday—have not only been memorable, but news-making. And the ratings for this year's special — just a hair under 2 million viewers many of them not old enough to qualify for Medicare — is probably the closest CNN will get to Fox News for all of 2010.
Say what you will about Griffin, but she says and does whatever the fuck she wants and cares little about the consequences (hmm, who does that sound like? Glenn Beck, maybe?) That's why this was becoming the New Year's Eve to watch. Sure, it's not going to take over the well-established New Year's Rockin' Eve with Ryan Seachrest's predictably waxen dimples and the reanimated corpse of Dick Clark, but given a couple more years of these antics and the second question after, "What are you doing New Year's, New Year's Eve?" would be, "What shenanigans will Kathy get up to this year?"
Instead CNN will probably just trot out Anderson again in his prissy parka and watch him blandly giggle his way through several hours of crowd shots while recapping the news stories of the day about politicians whose names we can't remember and foreign leaders whose names we can't pronounce. No one will talk about that the next day, no one will watch, and those that do will be bored to sleep by 10:45 and feel like assholes for missing the festivities.
We live in a world where news and celebrity personalities are managed within an inch of their lives and have the words carefully placed into their mouths by a fleet of producers, publicists, and other pushers of bland, unoffensive entertainment. Kathy Griffin cares nothing for any of this, and is the only person around who offers us the real spontaneity of a live broadcast. Instead of banning her, CNN should give her a weekly celebrity news and gossip show. Live! It's not at all the cardigans and Werther's Originals that CNN wants, but it is the jazz hands that it needs if it's going to get out of its ratings slump.