Late-night chatter got a little quieter on Thursday when CNBC announced that it was canceling Charles Grodin’s show after three and a half years (effective Monday). The network says that Grodin’s trademark diatribes on social issues didn’t fit between Brian Williams’ and Geraldo Rivera’s news shows. “Charles Grodin’s program was headed in a different editorial direction than the rest of CNBC’s prime time,” says CNBC spokesman George Jamison. “It was a mutual decision to go ahead and end the show.”
Ratings were not the issue, says Jamison. True, Grodin’s 11 p.m. show had less than half the viewers of CNBC’s prime-time programs. (He averaged 227,000 households in May, versus 482,000 households for CNBC’s prime-time shows.) On the other hand, Grodin’s ratings had nearly doubled from a year ago.
According to Entertainment Weekly TV editor Jamie Bufalino, the cancellation is probably related to Grodin’s penchant for breaking telegenic conventions: He would open each show with a rant against such favorite targets as O.J. Simpson and Howard Stern and would often pause in the middle of lecturing the audience to stare off-camera in eerie silence. “Grodin made it work for awhile because of his eccentricity if nothing else,” says Bufalino. “But cable television is upping the ante. You can’t have just a talking head anymore, no matter how bizarre that head is.”