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CBS hires Lou Dobbs for morning commentary

Gail Shister
The Philadelphia Inquirer (MCT)

Already seen seven nights a week at 6 on CNN's "Lou Dobbs Tonight," big Lou will add CBS's "The Early Show" to his portfolio, the Eye announced Tuesday.

Dobbs will do live, weekly commentaries on the set between 7 and 8 a.m. Topics will include his hot-button troika: immigration, public education and free trade.

"I think it will be fun," says Dobbs, 61, who has a one-year deal. "I'm doing what I love to do. They want me to express my views. As you know, I'm never reticent to do that."

Steve Friedman, head of CBS's morning news broadcasts, says he reached out to Dobbs after ABC announced in January that it had signed CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck as a contributor to "Good Morning America."

"I basically said, `I wonder if Lou Dobbs would be interested?'" Friedman says. "Lou and I have known each other for years. They talked to us. We talked to them. We made the deal."

While there's no corporate synergy here - Time Warner owns CNN, Viacom pulls the strings at CBS - Dobbs' crossover is not without precedent. CNN poster boy Anderson Cooper does at least five pieces a year for CBS's "60 Minutes."

Ever the statesman, Friedman can't resist taking a shot at No. 2 "GMA" and Beck, who has yet to make an appearance since his Jan. 9 hiring, according to an ABC rep.

"I don't believe in amorphous signings," Friedman says. "If you're in the family, you can't come on occasionally. You have to have a regular spot."

Says ABC's equally politic Jeffrey Schneider: "I don't believe in punching down to engage the head of the third- place morning show."

Dobbs says his Tuesday commentaries will be at least a minute in length, followed by chats with anchors Harry Smith, Hannah Storm, Julie Chen and Russ Mitchell. (Note to CBS: Rene Syler, who got the boot Dec. 1, is still listed as a coanchor on your Web site.)

Friedman doesn't expect Dobbs to be all-immigration- all-the-time.

"We want a wide, varied Lou. He can talk about money, politics and other issues. Quite frankly, now that we're into 14-year presidential campaigns, he can talk about that, too."

For Friedman, it's a win-win for both sides.

"We're his morning job. His night job remains the same. He gets to look at a new audience. We get to use his persona to attract a new audience. He's great TV."

For Dobbs, there's no downside, either. "I'm working with good people and talking to more viewers in a different platform. It's as good as it gets."

Well, except for the hours.

Not exactly a morning person, Dobbs, who lives on a 300-acre horse farm in North Jersey, will stay overnight in New York on Mondays so he won't have to commute. (We're guessing Dobbs won't pick up the tab.)

"Lou get up early?" Friedman says with a laugh. "I don't think he's up at 3:45, jogging around Manhattan."

"If you define grouchy as not talking to me before I've had my morning coffee, then I'm grouchy," Dobbs says. "Fortunately, my wife's always nice enough to bring me a cup."

___

O'BRIENS OUT?

This just in - CNN is changing its breakfast blend. The O'Briens, Soledad and Miles (no relation), are out as co-anchors of "American Morning," TMZ.com reports.

Both are expected to stay at CNN. Their replacements will be CNN's John Roberts, 50, a Canadian CBS alum, and Nepal-born Kiran Chetry, 32, recently hired from Fox News Channel.

Soledad, 40, and Miles, 47, debuted on "Morning" in June 2005. According to buzz in the biz, the change is being made because Don Imus' MSNBC simulcast is fast closing in on "Morning" in the 7-to-10 a.m. weekday ratings.

Neither O'Brien returned calls to their cell phones Tuesday.

___

MONDAY, MONDAY.

Bad News Monday in TV land.

Three ratings-challenged series - all freshmen - got the hook: David E. Kelley's "The Wedding Bells" on Fox, ABC's "Six Degrees," and NBC's "The Black Donnellys."

___

ALL IN THE FAMILY

David Arquette will direct big sister Patricia Arquette on next Wednesday's episode of NBC's "Medium." It marks the first time the Arquette sibs have worked together as director/actor.

In the episode, "1-900-LUCKY," her brother Michael's (Ryan Hurst) job as a phone psychic leads him to visit a client in Arizona whose husband has been murdered. To the surprise of Allison (Arquette), Michael's trip plays a large role in her own investigation.

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