The much anticipated show of the former governor of Arkansas and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, premiered as an oaisis of reason during the frenzied 24 hour coverage of the Bailout madness on Capitol Hill this weekend, and amidst the furious post presidential debate spin.
Fox premiered its new show 'Huckabee', after a two hour debate analysis special of Hannity and Colmes which should have secured a fairly strong retention of viewership, if the feverish anticipation of Huckabee's election supporter base would not have been enough in and of itself to secure good ratings.
The show featured the innovative format of an unscripted audience 'townhall style' Q and A along with more traditional elements of talk shows like the requisite host monologue and guest segments.
A few things stood out to viewers and new fans of the show. Huckabee did not make himself the 'star' of the show. He was a brilliant facilitator, in the sense that he actually allowed his guests to fully answer questions or make commentary without interruption; a lesson that the Hannity's and O'Riley's of the talk world would be well advised to learn. As a result there was almost no crosstalk to devolve into a shouting match, and the feeling tone of the entire show was much more reminiscent of an Oprah or Ellen sit down than a pundit's sound off. He was warm, personable and funny without being over the top.
This is not to say that the show was not substantive. It was very much so. The segment with Elizabeth Hasselback of The View, which could have had the potential to devolve into a fluff piece about her role on the show, actually featured the roll out of the now infamous God ____ America clip of Rev. Wright as the set up for Elizabeth's commentary of her interrogation of Obama for his relationship with Wright on an episode of The View. Without sensationalizing or editorializing about Obama himself, Huckabee provided a forum for a discussion of some of the concerns that association raised. This was significant, mainly because to date, Rev. Wright has been off the table for discussion during the campaign, and the inclusion of the clip could provoke an outcry from hardcore Obama supporters.
The segment signaled two things, Huckabee will not be afraid to take on controversial subjects, and that while he will be 'vertical' or positive and forward looking in his commentary, he is still a conservative. This first guest spot was clearly a red meat nod to the base.
Also featured in this opening show was some substantive economic commentary by a first rate line up of guests: Alexis Glick, producer of one of the Fox business shows, David Ramsey, popular host of his own business show, and Geraldine Ferrarro, whose role was to give some congressional perspective on what might be going on behind closed doors during the bailout talks.
While there was a sense of urgency about the need of the bailout package discussed, it was with distinctly comforting overtones. Ferraro pointed out that we've made money on previous similar deals, Ramsey postulated that the world did not come to an end when no deal was brokered by Friday, and Glick redirected attention to the root cause of the problem which she tied to the Democrat sponsored and pushed Community Reinvestment Act. Huckabee himself proposed the stimulation of the economy via the elimination of the capital gains tax as one example of something that could be part of a non-bailout package which he is deeply opposed to.
Interspersed between segments and ads, were the audience interaction segments where audience members were able to direct questions to both Mike and the guests at different points in the program. The connectivity and authenticity of those moments are sure to be a major part of the appeal of this show, and I think those moments should be increased, even if it means cutting the length of one of the guest segments.
The creation of the Fox news house band was a stroke of genius. There is a certain appeal to seeing folks you have known in front of the camera in one capacity, in another. Especially if they actually have talent. Further, by reaching out into the Fox family and giving them a sense of 'ownsership' in the program, Huckabee will begin to neutralize some of the resistance that there may have been to him there in some quarters. Make no mistake, Huckabee will run for office again someday, probably for president. He's young enough to wait 20 years if he has to, and as we have seen this election, things are so much easier when you're not fighting the media all the way through the process.
While no details have yet surfaced about how the show did ratings wise, or in MSM commentary, feedback in the netroots has been positive where discussion has been taking place. The consensus was that an hour of Huckabee is not enough.
Following are a sample of some of the comments posted to Huckabee's PAC blog and on other message boards around the web.
We had --actually still having--a "watch party" for Huckabee. The best description comes from a neighbor who was not a Huckabee supporter during the primary. He said it was about time there was a talk show host who was not only smart and funny but also kind. If he had known more about Mike during the primaries, he would have voted for him instead of Thompson.
Loved Huck's new show and the first place I went was to shoot an email to Fox letting them know it was GREAT!! I also ps that the band idea, pulling folks from Fox with all different types of jobs there was pure genius!! Like America, diverse!!! Loved the question section at the beginning where Mike just answered off the cuff. He is so good at that!!! Loved the interview with Elizabeth. The bailout disucssion seemed a little rushed (everyone tried to talk too long), but other than the fact that maybe Fox needs to give Mike 2 hours instead of one, it was GREAT!!! I will be watching tomorrow night when I have folks coming over for dinner. We are having a "Huckabee" party.
Didn't really know what to expect from the show, but I thought the whole format was very well conceived and executed. There wasn't a moment of the show where I felt uninterested in. I like the fact that Mike lets his guests speak without interrupteing them (e.g. Hannity). The economic discussion was excellent except that I wished it had gone on a bit longer so the guests could have debated the subject a bit more in depth (darn time constraints). Wasn't sure what to expect from the band, but they were pretty good too.
My dad and I watched the show and enjoyed it very much.
loved the question and answer part. the response to the question about barrowing from a 401 to pay off high credit bill. was one that our family had struggled with the thought of. glad to find the answer, before we made the mistake. Thanks.
Almost 100 comments have been posted to the pac blog thus far, and I'm sure many more will come once the Sunday night viewers get their opportunity to experience the show first hand. If you haven't had the opportunity to catch the show, do so. The repeat showing should air at 8pm ET tonight assuming that news of a deal on the bailout doesn't trump regular programming.
Former members of the Huckabee campaign observed to an attendee at the taping yesterday, that the show was not scheduled to begin airing until Janurary, obviously the Fox bigwigs know a cash cow when they see one. Huckabee will be very profitable for the network if his track record of maximum reward with limited investment holds true.
The full tale has yet to be told, but as a first at bat, 'Huckabee' definately makes a solid base hit.
Links to review commetary