In conversations and e-mail exchanges with a few Arkansas Project friends yesterday, we arrived at the consensus that this whole “Huckabee” show deal is weird.
Let’s review: For some months, we had been hearing that former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was in talks with FOX News to launch his own show. Here’s what Huckabee told Arkansas Democrat-Gazette writer Kane Webb in an interview published August 10:
“I can say it’s gonna be unlike anything else that’s on FOX and maybe on cable.” When asked if it’s a talk show, Huckabee says, “yes and no. Not a talk show like you’ve seen. We’ll have a live studio audience and some very innovative features.” But surely it’ll be about politics, right ?
“Politics will be a part of it, but it certainly won’t be all of it,” Huckabee says. “I mean, what isn’t politics a part of now ? There are entertainment shows that have a political overtone. I think this may be a political show that has an entertainment overtone.”
Images of the Howard Cosell variety hour come frighteningly to mind in the worst-case, fish-out-of-water scenario. In the best case, a conservative version of Jon Stewart without the snarkiness….
Here’s a possible clue: One of the producers working with Huckabee is a man named Woody Fraser, who was the original producer of the Mike Douglas Show and Good Morning America.
Fast forward to this week: On Wednesday evening, Huckabee announced on his website that the show would debut on Saturday night at 7 p.m., which I dutifully passed along here. Follow-up inquiries by media produced almost no new information, other than the fact that the show’s first guest would be Elisabeth Hasselbeck.
Reporters who call FOX News are referred to Huckabee’s agent, who, I’m told by well-placed media sources, has been less than forthcoming with information. I e-mailed the agent yesterday and received no response, but then again, why would they respond to me? (Another friend swears that she saw a promo for “Huckabee” on FOX News yesterday afternoon. I believe her, though I’ve not seen it myself.)
So what gives? Why launch a new television program—one that would almost certainly command a reasonably sizable audience based on curiosity alone— with almost no promotion from the network? That’s a strategy guaranteed to hamper the show’s success.
My current working theory: FOX News is not happy with the concept of the show, and, like a movie studio declining to screen a bad movie for critics, they’re not putting any marketing muscle behind “Huckabee,” and airing it in low viewership weekend slots. When the show underperforms, FOX can say, “Well, we tried,” and walk away.
(Another consideration: We’ve all been talking about “Huckabee” as if it’s the launch of a series. I just assumed that was the case, but now that I think about it, no one has said anything about a “series.” The original blog post announcing “Huckabee” makes no mention of a continuing series and only refers to a “show.” What if it’s not planned as a series, but as a one-off broadcast to test the waters?)
I glanced at the broadcast listings on the TV, and at this point the Comcast menu still says that the Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity shows are scheduled for tonight. (Yeah, that’s the type of crackerjack reporting you can expect from The Arkansas Project—I turned on the television!) But I’m planning to tune in this evening just to figure out what the hell is going on with this thing.
Update, 8:30 a.m. or so: Huck’s on “Fox and Friends Saturday” right now talking about the show and showing off his bass guitar. He’s loose and charming in an open collar shirt and sport coat.
With regard to “Huckabee”: “We’ll certainly talk about the debate; we’ll be talking about the proposed ‘bail-out’…I wanna talk about what does this mean to you at your dinner table. How does this affect you, whatever they do up there in Washington…We’re gonna have some humor in the program…Sometimes we’ll just tell ’em what Congress is doing and that’s about as funny as life can get.” Claims some vindicaton for his anti-Wall Street stuff during the primary.
Update: The Arkansas Project’s review of “Huckabee” is here.