CNN, you may have read here recently, has a ratings problem.
It's slipped to fourth in cable news' prime-time rankings, passed in the Nielsens by its ugly stepsister, Headline News, ancestral home of Glen Beck and Nancy Grace.
How might CNN get more eyeballs?
One way is to go the tabloid route -- permanently place, perhaps, a Headline News-type graphic at the bottom of the screen reading "Tot Mom," "Natalee Holloway" or "Craigslist Killer."
But the most effective route? That may be to get rid of what network TV programmers call "Instant Tune-Out Factors." Eliminate the "personalities" who make so many of us grab the remote.
In other words, dump the annoying people. And CNN has quite a few of them, you may have noticed.
As Nanki-Poo sings in "The Mikado," "I've got a little list." Herewith, my nominations for...
THE FIVE MOST ANNOYING PEOPLE ON CNN
1. Lou Dobbs. A no-brainer -- literally. This Limbaugh-like Uber-Bloviator is mercifully cooling his jets right now, since most people are too busy dealing with paying their mortgages to pay much attention to "Looky" Lou's anti-immigrant posturing and race-baiting. The xenophobic shtick will return, though -- like a bent coin in a vending machine. Plus, Dobbs' posturing last year as a self-proclaimed spokesperson for the middle class was almost as laughable as his coy hints he might be persuaded to run for President. (Psst. Carrying a handful of Congressional districts near Dallas and Phoenix probably won't do the job, Big Fella.). CNN claims it's situated between MSNBC and Fox News politically, but Dobbs' incessant braying about our supposedly "broken borders" would be right at home at Fox Noise.
2. Ali Velshi. If Lex Luthor wore glasses and an IFB earpiece, it might go something like...this tiresome sight gag/human bullhorn posing as a savvy economic analyst. Velshi, the most annoying bald Canadian import since Howie Mandel, delivers staccato bursts of alleged financial wisdom that are full of sound and fury and signify nothing -- except that he's a financial poseur. This glorified radio host's main gimmick: Standing in front of CNN's huge computer screen and trying to look authoritative as he points to economic and financial jargon. (Just what the viewing public has needed to survive the financial tempests of the last few months). A guy who looks like an escapee from a minimum-security prison telling us to pay off our credit cards? That's all you got? Plus, CNN inexplicably uses this meathead on political panels. Suze Orman is only half as annoying as this well-tailored visual gimmick.
3. Rick Sanchez: Jon Stewart's always looking for an excuse to show old footage of Sanchez's attention-getting stunt of getting Tase'd. Why? Because it feels so good, and I agree with Stewart. Irksome midday anchor "Hey-Look-at-Me" Sanchez's newscasts always seem to be more about Sanchez and his outsized ego than about the news. The ever-preening Sanchez is training to be the next Geraldo.
4. T.J. Holmes: I endured this feckless CNN weekend anchor for several years on a San Francisco local TV station before he was kicked "upstairs." Holmes is shallower than a kiddie pool, something all too obvious each time he opens his mouth and makes sappy happy talk. Holmes makes Ted Baxter look like Zbigniew Brzezinski. Note to CNN news execs: This is what happens when you don't look at enough audition tapes. In Holmes' case, San Francisco TV's gain is CNN's loss.
5. Soledad O'Brien: This ousted one-time CNN morning anchor has been re-branded as a CNN "Special Correspondent." Like Holmes, she also came from an NBC affiliate in San Francisco, where calling her "unremarkable" became routine in my TV column. "I still don't get it," one of her former S.F. colleagues told me recently, shaking her head. "She's not talented." True, but it's obvious that having a catchy name, a crooked smile and an annoying glottal delivery apparently play well at CNN Central.
(Thanks to visitors to my web site, dc weasels, for your nominations).
OK, readers: Who at CNN should have been included here?