Big drama at MSNBC this week. Will Chris Matthews be co-hosting “Hardball” with his wife, Kathleen Matthews, who is both a TV news pro and also spokes-meister for Marriott Corporation?
No more two hours an evening for Chris Matthews. He’s losing his 5 p.m. show, and I don’t think he’s happy. The show has been airing a second time at 7 p.m. Now it will be on exclusively at 7 p.m.
The change sets up major competition between cable television news superstars. The new “Hardball” will go head-to-head against “Out Front,” the Erin Burnett show on CNN at 7 p.m.
It feels like a high-stakes tryout week at MSNBC. Filling in for Andrea Mitchell at her 1 p.m. weekday time slot, Chris and Kathleen Matthews are apparently trying out a new and improved concept for “Hardball.” Something this unpolished could only air in Washington in the dog days of August.
Does Chris Matthews really want to share the spotlight with his wife? At times Tuesday, he looked like a pouting child with a stomach ache. When it was Kathleen’s turn to speak, he looked uncomfortable, frowning down at the notes on his desk.
Kathleen looked and sounded professional, but maybe a little rusty. In fairness, this experiment must have been sprung on them with little or no rehearsal. Used to hosting solo, Chris seemed to be constantly trying to get into a rhythm of alternating questions with Kathleen as they interviewed guests.
The co-host chemistry was alarmingly absent Tuesday. No joking around; all business. The couple seemed to be warming up a little on Wednesday, at times handing off to each other smoothly, even an occasional smile from Chris. But Kathleen made it quite clear at the end of practice that she’s on a day-to-day basis. Better write some casual banter into this show.
It’s a perfect — even extreme — example of the Washington
revolting door revolving door that Mark Leibovich lampoons in “This Town.” The revolving door, of course, is big government, big business, and big media. When the music stops, everyone’s supposed to have a higher-paying job. Maybe. But while the music’s playing, it’s a high-anxiety game. Maybe they’ll interview Leibovich before the week’s over.
Conflict of interest? Kathleen Matthews is still PR chief for an international hotel company. For purposes of full disclosure, she has to mention her “day job” at Marriott, a corporation with a keen business interest in the news of the day. Specifically, Kathleen has noted Marriott’s many hotels in the troubled Middle East, and the obvious implications of immigration reform for the U.S. tourism industry.
As part of the lineup shakeup, Ed Shultz will return to MSNBC’s weekday roster, filling the 5 p.m. time slot. The 24-hour news cycle must go on. I doubt that Andrea Mitchell’s 1 p.m. show is in danger. She’s probably simply on August vacation. Someone has to fill in while she’s gone. But you have to wonder if retirement will ever be in her plans.
The rest of the week will rival the daytime serials. Will the Chris and Kathleen co-hosting experiment get the hook? Who will make the decision? And if the new “Hardball” is for real, will it be ready for prime time by Monday? Whatever happens, it won’t be the second coming of Huntley and Brinkley.
— John Hayden
- John Oliver Skewers Chris Matthews (nationalreview.com)
- Chris Matthews Co-Anchors With Wife Kathleen (huffingtonpost.com)
- Chris Matthews Really Wants You to Watch Hardball at 7pm (mediaite.com)