The show that has become known as The Special Report with Don Lemon (which airs at 10pm, usually Monday-Thursday) is exactly the format that, in my opinion, Jeff Zucker was going for when he had AC360 Later on the air. It started out as an hour of rolling coverage (non-coverage) of the MH370 story, but it has evolved into a rolling news hour (more or less) with a noticeable amount of commentary and chatting, between Don Lemon and his guests. It is, essentially, what 360 Later tried to do, but failed.
Because Anderson Cooper isn’t much of a commentator, and there’s simply nothing wrong with that. He’s a news anchor who doesn’t voice much of an opinion. In essence, he was a moderator on AC360 Later, not a member of the panel. On what I have begun to affectionately call Don Lemon and Friends (aka the Special Report), Don manages to play both roles well: the moderator and a very vocal commentator. Don is good at what he does, and so too is Anderson. So, what’s the problem, then?
The answer is simple: Jeff Zucker.
He has already announced what CNN’s primetime schedule will be, moving forward (EBO at 7pm, AC360 at 8pm, taped programming at 9pm, and CNN Tonight at 10pm). But that’s a problem. Bill Weir is almost assuredly going to rotate heavily (at least two or three times a week, if I were to wager a guess), and he is awful, as the ratings have begun to indicate for CNN Tonight at the 9pm slot. However, if Zucker were to move Don Lemon and Friends to 10pm permanently, and either can Weir/CNN Tonight or move it to another timeslot, I think it would prove to be a good move. If Zucker is determined to move CNN Tonight (with a rotating roster of hosts) to 10pm, then I think he should at least move Don Lemon and Friends to 11pm permanently, airing them M-Th, and instead of having a CNN Spotlight and Rachel Nichols’ Unguarded at 10 and 10:30, respectively, on Fridays, air them at 11 and 11:30 on Fridays, preempting Don’s show at that day.
Whatever you do, Zucker… Don’t gut Don Lemon’s commentary/panel show. Please.