Dan Rather 'energized' as new show debuts

Gail Shister
The Philadelphia Inquirer

Dan Rather says he hasn't been this pumped since his high school football team played for the Houston championship in 1949.

That's a long time between touchdowns, Cap'n Dan.

"Dan Rather Reports," a weekly documentary series on HDNet, launches at 8 p.m. EST Tuesday. Rather's been out of the game since June, when CBS pushed him out after 44 years.

As HDNet's global correspondent, Rather has been on the road almost constantly for 2 ½ months, hitting Mexico, England, the Far East and Alaska, among many other states.

At 75, he's beginning to feel it in his bones.

"I cannot keep up the pace. I'm a hoss for work. I love to work more than I can say grace over, but I'm going to have to delegate some work. Right now, I'm the only on-air person on this broadcast."

Despite the load, Rather insists he's not tired. A self-described child of the road, he paces himself.

"I'm energized. I'm high-energy all the time. Fortunately, I only need four hours sleep. I sleep on airplanes, which is a good thing. I'm asleep before the plane takes off and stay asleep until the wheels touch down."

HDNet, owned by Dallas Mavericks zillionaire Mark Cuban, reaches about 4 million homes on satellite and cable. That's a hiccup, by any measure.

Rather and his staff of 19 are holed up in an eighth-floor office near New York's Bryant Park. The former prince of CBS News found the space, ordered the phones and computers, even arranged for the furniture.

"It's not just a different planet, it's a different cosmos," he says, "but we have what we need."

At "60 Minutes," his final gig at CBS after 24 years anchoring "CBS Evening News," Rather had "an expansive, million-dollar view of the Hudson." Now, "I see the bricks in the next building."

Not that Rather's complaining. Cuban "has been unbelievable to me," he says. "I know that nobody will believe me. He's an absolute fanatic about quality. And he wants me to be fearless."

Unlike at CBS, where he had to answer to several layers of suits, Rather says he has "complete, total and absolute creative and editorial control."

He calls it "Dan Rather's kind of journalism. Not everybody will like that, God do I ever understand that.

"In journalism, you are what your record is. I have a record not everybody likes. I certainly haven't been perfect." (The "Memogate" scandal forced Rather from the anchor chair.)

Back to that `49 game: Rather played defensive end for the John H. Reagan Bulldogs.

"We played on a Friday night in front of 30,000 people," he remembers. "I can recite every down in that game. For a 17-year-old, that's as big as it got."


Speaking of Texas high school football -- a perfect segue! -- NBC has ordered a full season's 22 episodes of "Friday Night Lights," the network said Monday.

The freshman "Lights" stars Kyle Chandler as a coach in a small Texas town. It's based on the 1990 book by former Philadelphia Inquirer staffer Buzz Bissinger.

The acclaimed "Lights" has failed to generate heat at 8 p.m. Tuesdays, where it fights ABC's monster "Dancing With the Stars" and CBS's "NCIS." After five episodes, "Lights" averages just 6.5 million total viewers, ranking 77th.

"I give NBC a hell of a lot of credit," Bissinger says. "If they can find the right time slot, the audience will grow."

Don't be surprised if "Lights" moves to 10 p.m. Mondays, occupied by a fellow struggling frosh, Aaron Sorkin's "Studio 60." In a shot there Oct. 30, "Lights" gained two million viewers.

NBC last week picked up "Studio 60" for a full season. That leaves just one NBC newbie on the bubble: "30 Rock," from "Saturday Night Live" vet Tina Fey.


As part of NBC Universal cutbacks, more than 17 "Dateline" staffers based in New York, Washington and Chicago were pink-slipped.





12 Essential Performances from New Orleans' Piano "Professors"

New Orleans music is renowned for its piano players. Here's a dozen jams from great Crescent City keyboardists, past and present, and a little something extra.


Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

By the Book

Flight and Return: Kendra Atleework's Memoir, 'Miracle Country'

Although inconsistent as a memoir, Miracle Country is a breathtaking environmental history. Atleework is a shrewd observer and her writing is a gratifying contribution to the desert-literature genre.


Mark Olson and Ingunn Ringvold Celebrate New Album With Performance Video (premiere)

Mark Olson (The Jayhawks) and Ingunn Ringvold share a 20-minute performance video that highlights their new album, Magdalen Accepts the Invitation. "This was an opportunity to perform the new songs and pretend in a way that we were still going on tour because we had been so looking forward to that."


David Grubbs and Taku Unami Collaborate on the Downright Riveting 'Comet Meta'

Comet Meta is a brilliant record full of compositions and moments worthy of their own accord, but what's really enticing is that it's not only by David Grubbs but of him. It's perhaps the most emotive, dream-like, and accomplished piece of Grubbsian experimental post-rock.


On Their 2003 Self-Titled Album, Buzzcocks Donned a Harder Sound and Wore it With Style and Taste

Buzzcocks, the band's fourth album since their return to touring in 1989, changed their sound but retained what made them great in the first place

Reading Pandemics

Chaucer's Plague Tales

In 18 months, the "Great Pestilence" of 1348-49 killed half of England's population, and by 1351 half the population of the world. Chaucer's plague tales reveal the conservative edges of an astonishingly innovative medieval poet.


Country's Jaime Wyatt Gets in Touch With Herself on 'Neon Cross'

Neon Cross is country artist Jaime Wyatt's way of getting in touch with all the emotions she's been going through. But more specifically, it's about accepting both the past and the present and moving on with pride.


Counterbalance 17: Public Enemy - 'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back'

Hip-hop makes its debut on the Big List with Public Enemy’s meaty, beaty manifesto, and all the jealous punks can’t stop the dunk. Counterbalance’s Klinger and Mendelsohn give it a listen.


Sondre Lerche and the Art of Radical Sincerity

"It feels strange to say it", says Norwegian pop artist Sondre Lerche about his ninth studio album, "but this is the perfect time for Patience. I wanted this to be something meaningful in the middle of all that's going on."


How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.


From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.