2005-02-28

What's the "Big Idea?"


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Generally I'm all for the media's efforts to fit square pegs in round holes. Knock yourselves out you lackers of originality. It is frustrating, however, to watch this misery when you are rooting for the square peg.

Exhibit One: John McEnroe, my all-time favorite tennis player. On the court he displayed a furious game and attitude as he became one of the youngest champs the game has ever known.

Mac is a lot of things. A talk show host isn't one of them. Not that CNBC wasn't willing to try. Lobbing brief but edgy comments into a tennis broadcast is one thing. Keeping a one-hour slab of television fluff moving along and interesting is quite different. And just that quickly, John McEnroe became an ex-talk show host.

CNBC's newest victim? Donny Deutsch. Deutsch gained fame when the Ad Agency he owns hosted one of the challenges in each season of NBC's "The Apprentice."

Deutsch is a likeable guy. His expertise and passion for what he does made him an instant favorite on Trump's reality show. Say what you want about Donald Trump, but the guy is picky when it comes to business. If he likes you, as he clearly likes Deutsch, you must be good.

It's easy to see why Deutsch came to mind when looking to fill a new talk show seat. The guy is very animated and insightful WHEN TALKING ABOUT BUSINESS AND ADVERTISING. You know, the things he knows. As with McEnroe, this doesn't translate well into the broader talk show forum.

Instead, Deutsch's show "The Big Idea," is a train-wreck. As creative as he is, DD is not gifted when it comes to imbecilic banter which is required to keep the average talk show moving.

At one point an interview with Billy Idol bogged down when the rocker revealed that in his early days to further an "in your face" image. Deutsch: I've got to tell you, I don't like that. Idol went on to explain that it was all an image thing and had nothing to do with the singer's personal beliefs. Deutsch: I don't like that.

I'm not saying DD had to agree with Idol. But a good talk show host can disagree without bringing the show to a grinding halt. He could go the Oprah route and just airhead his way through it. Or, like Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity, come back with a compelling question designed to stimulate discussion.

Another problem - the show is often used as a vehicle for Apprentice alumni hawking their latest ventures. This in itself is not bad. Unfortunately, those ventures are usually as well thought out as CNBC's idea of getting Donny Deutsch to host a talk show. Apparently, unlike Deutsch, the quality Apprentice alums have gone with their strengths and are back in the business world.

Personally, I'm interested in business and marketing, so the thought of one hour with Deutsch grabbed my attention. Unfortunately, DD is probably not going to be hired to do an hour of that. So, I guess we'll just have to guess who will get the next shot at talk show glory once CNBC comes to grips with its latest failure.

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