There is something to be said about television executives who believed spending 15 million dollars on a celebrity journalist would lift the least-watched network newscast out of the ratings basement. But lessons have been learned at CBS News which is re-fashioning itself as the smart alternative to those conducting business as usual. In the process of moving into a harder news direction, the Tiffany Network is reviving Edward R. Murrow’s 1953 show “Person to Person.” Viewers will be given “unique access” into the lives of the newsmakers and celebrities. Interviews will be conducted via satellite as newsmakers lead co-hosts Lara Logan and Charlie Rose on a tour of their home or office.
“Person to Person” will air as a television special on Wednesday, February 8th. But there is a strong possibility – if it’s a ratings hit – that “Person to Person” will be given a full series order. Wednesday’s episode will feature George Clooney, Warren Buffet, and Jon Bon Jovi. “When someone opens their home, they’re sharing a part of themselves that traditional interview programs can’t reach,” adds Co-Executive Producer Judy Tygard.
We should add that Murrow had little interest in celebrity interviews. But in 1953, CBS President Bill Paley saw a ratings juggernaut with Murrow presenting. The relationship between these two television icons is fascinating and could be categorized as love/hate. It was ultimately the McCarthy reports on the legendary “See It Now” that did Murrow no good turns at the Columbia Broadcasting System. After the loss of ALCOA – which served as the show’s sole sponsor – Paley decided to move the low-rated “See It Now” out of prime-time and served it up as occasional news specials on Sunday afternoons. In today’s t.v. landscape, let’s hope the re-incarnation of “Person to Person” doesn’t end up as an “occasional special” even as a person-of-interest type broadcast. If it can retain half the integrity and style of its predecessor, it will shine amongst the myriad of non-sensical news programmes that are shoved down our throats.