Imus in the Morning debuts on Fox Business Network in a confusing jumble
He may have spent a week in his new studio beforehand getting used to everything. But Don Imus' debut on the Fox Business Network this morning was still jittery enough to feel like a first-time affair, complete with a first guest on a temperamental cell phone and production assistants occasionally walking into camera shots.
Not that Imus hasn't made the most of his new home. Plopped into a a high-tech forest of glass, steel and projection screens, Imus' crew looked grizzled and a bit old school next to their sleek, striking surroundings.
A busy backdrop flashed animated versions of the show's logo behind the radio jock's cowboy hat head, while the multilevel set offered a wide expanse perfect for sweeping camera shots and varied looks. Imus has already talked about the transition to some, but today offer fans the first, full look at his new TV home.
The first hour of Imus' show felt a little off-balance, packed with so many business updates and news headlines that the star couldn't get many words in edgewise. The show's first words on air weren't even spoken by Imus but by Jenna Lee, a young newsreader perched on a lectern high above the madness.
The first guest was author Debra Dickerson -- an African-American writer mostly known for penning a controversial essay saying that then-presidential candidate Barack Obama wasn't really black. Her spot, marred by an intermittent cell phone connection, started off with lame joke about her cat, moved on to an uncomfortable talk about an academic who wrote a book apparently defending the joke that got Imus canned from MSNBC and CBS Radio, culminating with the I-man's question about why Obama's election didn't produce racial harmony.
It was an odd moment; Imus asking why people are so upset about Obama's election while appearing on Fox Business Network, a cable sister of Fox News Channel, the news outlet that may have done more to whip up anti-Obama sentiment than any other.
Of course, no one in Imus' crew -- Dickerson included -- dwelled on that; indeed, the rest of Imus' gang was noticeably silent during most of the author's segment, aside from laughing loudly at anything resembling a joke.
Those expecting Imus to drink the Fox News Kool-Aid completely on his first day out were likely disappointed. Imus' politics have always been something of a mish-mash, with equal scorn reserved for conservatives and liberals he regards as knuckleheads. But now that he's been given a chance for a wider audience -- after seeing the TV portion of his post-scandal broadcasts relegated to the wilds of the RFD channel for nearly two years -- will Imus soften his typically crusty liberal stances?
Despite Imus' much-ballyhooed addition of two black performers to his crew in December 2007, the all-male team on the air this morning was middle-aged and white, exemplified when an occasional camera shot would highlight all the guys at once. The rest of Imus' guest lineup for his first day was impressively varied -- from Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi to Sen. John McCain and Fox News star Glenn Beck.
But the first hour highlighted all the stuff critics have dinged Imus for over many years, from a lack of diversity among the on air crew, to an unfortunate lack of comedy.
It's hard to know whether Imus will pull together a show entertaining enough to rebuild his empire. But there's little doubt he's found a glitzy home from which to try.