News

Rather to join Colbert, Jon Stewart on election night

Gail Shister
The Philadelphia Inquirer

Dan Rather

This is not a joke. Dan Rather will analyze election results with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert Tuesday night at 11 EST on Comedy Central's live, hour-long "Indecision 2006" special.

"It's a risk, I guess, but what the hell," says Rather, who covered every national election since 1962 for CBS before being drop-kicked in June. Now he's global correspondent for Mark Cuban's HDNet.

"J. Stewart and company offered the chance, and I've taken it," Rather, 75, says. "I don't do comedy, I do politics, which sometimes is one and the same.

"Certainly, one can't cover politics and not have a sense of humor about it. Let's face it, politics is often a theater of the absurd."

Equally absurd are the corny "Ratherisms" he dragged out during many election-night marathons.

Among our faves: "If a frog had side pockets, he'd carry a handgun." And: "This race is tight like a too-small bathing suit on a too-long ride home from the beach."

Don't look for such classic nuggets on Tuesday night's "Midterm Midtacular," Rather says. (Color us disappointed.)

"Don't expect many Ratherisms, if any. If any occur to me, I may use it, but I intend to be myself, report a bit, and have them take it from there. I'm told I will be expected to `play it straight,' and then they'll bounce off it. We'll see."

Rather has never been a guest of "The Daily Show" or "Colbert Report," but he's grateful to them for giving him a platform from which to keep his 44-year string of election coverage going.

"I'm hoping this old wreck of an anchorman and political reporter may yet have some wee something to contribute," he says.

"CBS Evening News" boss Rome Hartman agrees.

"Between the three of them, at least they've got one real newsman now. I wish Dan nothing but the best. If this is what he thinks would be a fun way to spend Election Night, that's fine."

Some viewers won't be able to tell the difference, according to Bob Thompson, director of Syracuse University's Center for the Study of Popular Television.

"There were times during the last few elections I thought Rather was "already doing Comedy Central. He won't have to change his act much. ... For an awful lot of young viewers, this will be seen as a step up."

But seriously, if Stewart and Colbert utilize Rather's reporting experience instead of just ridiculing him to rubble, "it could actually be an interesting development," Thompson says.

"Let's face it, Rather's got a lot to say. You might hate him, but he's an experienced journalist."

Rather says he sees Tuesday night's gig "as yet another new adventure. I'm into pioneering new territory now, and, well, this is pioneering of a sort, I guess."

Cuban and Rather discussed an election-night special for HDNet, sources say, but they decided they needed to focus on the launch of the "Dan Rather Reports" documentary series next Tuesday.

FYI: Stewart's "Indecision `04" featured ex-Mass. Gov. William Weld and the Rev. Al Sharpton on election night. In `02, it was Sen. John McCain, and in `00, former presidential candidate Bob Dole.

___

"The Papdits," a comedy/reality pilot that never saw the light of day at CBS, is being streamed for free on the network's broadband channel, Innertube (www.cbs.com/innertube.)

"Papdits," written and produced by Ant Hines of HBO's brilliant "Da Ali G Show," is about a fictional family from Kashmir and the members' interactions with real Americans as they travel cross-country in their RV.

"Papdits" was originally developed for Fox in late `04. Last year, CBS planned to revive it, but then decided it wasn't a mainstream show.

Rather than ditch the pilot altogether, CBS opted to run it on broadband. If it generates enough buzz, it could lead to more episodes on Innertube, the network says.

CBS timed "Papdits"' launch to the release of a similarly themed movie, "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan," which opened to boffo box office last weekend. Hines was a writer on the flick.

___

Showtime has ordered a second season's 12 episodes of "Dexter," starring Michael C. Hall as a forensic expert and serial killer. Production begins in the spring for a summer launch. "Dexter's current season finale is Dec. 17. ... Soap spot: "General Hospital's" Luke (Tony Geary) and Laura (Genie Francis) will retie the knot Nov. 16 - 25 years, to the day, after their original TV nuptials. The first wedding drew a record 30-million-plus viewers.

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