08/09/2005 10:52 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

First Looks: Wolf's Train Wreck; Cosby's Tabloid DNA

Two cable news broadcasts premiered this week. One, Wolf Blitzer's "Situation Room," is watchable only for those devotees of train wrecks who used to love that mid-day talk-show on CNN -- the place Bobbi Batista went to die -- that smooshed together email, phone calls, and live guests in the CNN Center in front of an audience that looked more like hostages. You remember, that show.

Wolf now seems trapped reading his "hand-script," as if PrompTer reading is too slick, too old school. Around him, video walls play non-color-matched swatches of stories that have been edited down to a length that would make them seem a little zippy for Current, while Wolf is made to brag about being in touch with information from around the world, as if anybody with a laptop isn't.

But the other broadcast -- actually, cablecast, don't get me started -- is "Live and Direct" with Rita Cosby, on MSNBC, the channel whose average daily national audience is smaller than the population of a medium-size town in Kansas.

Cosby's show is unabashedly tabloid, mining the fields which exploded under former hot newsbabes Debbie Norville and Connie Chung. But Cosby, she of the blown-out vocal cords, comes from a decade at Fox News, and she seems to have tabloid DNA, wading into the bog of lapsed Jackson jurors and lost teens with the avidity of Steve Irwin in a croc creek.

Her first big "get," of course, were the two Jackson jurors who announced, seemingly around the clock, that they regretted the not-guilty verdict onto which they affixed their signatures. In the early preview stories about the interview, one word stood out. Highlights from the interview were on Monday morning's Today show, the stories reported, but the two jurors were in "seclusion" for the rest of the day until the Cosby show -- you know what I mean -- aired.

I wonder exactly what kind of "seclusion" that was. Could those hours be called "you talk to anybody else and your chances of selling your book and movie projects to any of the NBC-owned networks and studios (of which there are more every day) is zip times zilch"?