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TV Bulletin Board (Wed., June 23) -- CNN hires scandal-ridden former NY guv as co-host of new prime-time program

Partnering up: Kathleen Parker and Eliot Spitzer. CNN photo

Like all cable news channels, CNN devoted heavy coverage to the events surrounding former New York governor Eliot Spitzer's resignation in March 2008 after The New York Times exposed his numerous liaisons with high-priced prostitutes.

It would be funny then -- if it weren't so sad -- that CNN's announcement of Spitzer as co-host of a new Crossfire-type program made absolutely no mention of his scandalous past.

Instead the granddaddy of cable's all-news networks lauded Spitzer Wednesday as a "renowned prosecutor and former governor of the state of New York" who is "frequently referred to as the 'Sheriff of Wall Street.' "

Spitzer will be paired with self-described "rational" conservative columnist Kathleen Parker in "a spirited, nightly roundtable discussion program" that will replace the failed Campbell Brown show at 7 p.m. (central) next fall.

CNN/U.S. president Jon Klein took a swipe at rivals Fox News Channel and MSNBC in describing the new program.

"Other cable news channels force-feed viewers one narrow, predictable point of view," Klein said in a publicity release. "In contrast, CNN will be offering a lively roundup of all the best ideas -- presented by two of the most intelligent and outspoken figures in the country. Eliot and Kathleen are beholden to no vested interest -- in fact, quite the opposite. They are renowned for taking on the most powerful targets and most important causes."

Spitzer prepped for his CNN role with recurring appearances on MSNBC, which in the end declined to hire him. In his statement Wednesday, Spitzer said he looks forward to working with Parker "in a discussion that will inform, challenge and entertain. I am grateful to CNN for the opportunity to co-host a show that will advance the discussion of the defining issues of our time."

Parker, whose opinion column appears twice weekly in hundreds of newspapers, won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary last month. She began her columns in 1987 while working for the Orlando Sentinel.

CNN's hiring of Spitzer puts him well ahead of another famously defrocked governor, former Illinois chief executive Rod Blagojevich. Still awaiting trial, he's so far parlayed his post-resignation fame into a contestant role on NBC's The Celebrity Apprentice, where he was fired earlier this year by host Donald Trump.

***In other news with a political flavor, Vice President Joe Biden's wife, Dr. Jill Biden, will guest star as herself on the Sunday, Aug. 15th episode of Lifetime's Army Wives series. She'll be visiting the show's fictional Fort Marshall to kick off the post's annual "Fun Run," which supports a summer camp for the children of military families.

Also, Bristol Palin, oldest daughter of former Alaska governor and current Fox News Channel commentator Sarah Palin, likewise will appear as herself on the July 5th episode of ABC Family's The Secret Life of the American Teenager.

Bristol will make an appearance at a music program for teen mothers.

TV Bulletin Board (Fri., June 18) -- Hot In Cleveland cooks while Dave picks up steam

The Wednesday, June 16th premiere of TV Land's Hot In Cleveland drew the most viewers ever for the network and also ranked as cable's most-watched program of the day.

Starring Valerie Bertinelli, Betty White, Wendie Malick and Jane Leeves, the broadly drawn sitcom had 4.75 million total viewers nationally, two million of them in the network's 25-to-54-year-old target audience.

An immediately following encore episode added another 2.4 million viewers, half of them in the 25-to-54 age range.

In a premise that harkens to The Golden Girls, three women feeling insecure about their advancing years move into a Cleveland rooming house after their plane makes an emergency landing en route to Paris. White, the last surviving original Golden Girl, plays the property's spry, opinionated caretaker.

TV Land launched in 1996. Hot In Cleveland is its first original scripted series, with former Will & Grace star and recent Tony Awards host Sean Hayes serving as a co-executive producer.

***It's taken awhile. But David Letterman's CBS Late Show has tied Jay Leno's NBC Tonight Show among advertiser-craved 18-to-49-year-olds for the first time since Leno returned to replace Conan O'Brien on March 1st.

Both shows averaged a .9 national rating in this key demographic for the week of June 7-11.

Letterman also has been closing in with total viewers. The latest Nielsens showed him averaging 3.5 million viewers to Leno's 3.6 million.

O'Brien was being beaten by Letterman in both audience measurements until Leno immediately turned the tables back in Tonight's favor. In the early summer at least, Letterman is showing signs of renewed life while Leno fights to hold him off.