CNN President Jeff Zucker half-jokingly suggested there was room for Jon Stewart in the CNN lineup, should the departing funnyman desire it. “If Stewart wants to come, we’ll talk,” Zucker said at a luncheon to launch Bill Weir’s new original show The Wonder List.
It’s not likely Stewart, who dines out about once a week on CNN’s brand of cable news, is updating his résumé just yet.
Weir’s show is one of a dozen original programs CNN plans to roll out this year, and the first produced in-house. In it, the former anchor travels to long-lost or neglected global sites from the Galapagos Islands to the Everglades, investigating how secluded cultures grappled with rapidly intruding development.
“We set out to create time-capsules of places that are precious in their present state, but have the pressures of time bearing down on them,” Weir said of the show, debuting March 1 with an episode in the remote island nation of Vanuatu off the eastern coast of Australia. “They’re deciding whether to bite the apple in the Garden of Eden.”
The show’s premise, and some of its footage, go right up against climate change, which Weir said the show acknowledged without dwelling upon. He noted some cultures welcomed Americans with bags of money and blueprints for hotels, and cited Venice, where the city’s sinking edifice is endangered as much by tourism as by the rising tides. “So many stories out there you think are nature,” Weir said, “and it turns out to be human nature.”
Zucker, meanwhile, was bullish about the effect of the original programming for CNN, which he argued brought new sets of eyes to the channel, some of which stayed for its news programming. “We feel very good about where we are at,” he said. “We think that’s a combination of our improved news coverage and this strategy of original programming.”
He also talked up what he saw as CNN’s increasingly essential role in the partisan landscape, boasting that the cable news channel was the sole news provider in slimmed down cable packages and Snapchat’s new Discover function. Zucker was careful not to denigrate the importance of ratings, especially not those of a certain competitor, but argued that “CNN is actually more important and more valuable to those distributors because of what CNN stands for.”
Zucker began the meeting by paying tribute to Bob Simon, the CBS journalist who was killed in a car accident last night, and comment briefly upon Brian Williams. “He made some really bad mistakes,” Zucker said. “It’s a shame that’s obscured a fine career.”
Watch the trailer below:
[Image via CNN/screengrab]
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