Imus takes stage for comeback

Don Imus hosts his morning show debut on the Fox Business Network.

Associated Press

Don Imus hosts his morning show debut on the Fox Business Network.

He may have spent last week in his new studio getting used to everything. But Don Imus' debut on the Fox Business Network at 6 a.m. Monday 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 high-tech forest of glass, steel and projection screens, Imus' crew looked grizzled and a bit old school next to the sleek, striking surroundings.

A busy backdrop flashed animated versions of the show's logo behind the radio jock's cowboy hatted-head, while the multilevel set offered a wide expanse perfect for sweeping camera shots and varied looks.

It was another step up from the abyss Imus fell into in April 2007, when racially insensitive remarks got him booted from both MSNBC and CBS Radio. A deal to simulcast his comeback show for Citadel Broadcasting radio stations on the RFD (Rural Free Delivery) TV network didn't last long; Fox Business will now feature him from three hours weekdays at 6 a.m.

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. The show's first words on air weren't even spoken by Imus but by Jenna Lee, a young news reader perched on a lectern high above the madness.

The first guest was author Debra Dickerson — an African-American writer known for penning a controversial 2007 essay saying that then-presidential candidate Barack Obama wasn't really black. Her spot, marred by an intermittent cell phone connection, culminated with a question from the I-man on 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. A subsequent appearance by Fox News rising star Glenn Beck, one of Obama's most vocal critics on television, didn't spark a similar conversation, either.

Still, 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, 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 Monday was middle-aged and white.

Indeed, 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; as the Washington Post noted, Fox Business is drawing just 21,000 viewers these days. But he's found a glitzy home from which to try.

Imus takes stage for comeback 10/05/09 [Last modified: Monday, October 5, 2009 9:04pm]

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