Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Al Franken Radio Show to Be on Cable TV

NEW YORK - Satirist-commentator Al Franken will return to his TV roots next month when his radio show begins appearing on cable's Sundance Channel.

Beginning Sept. 7, "The Al Franken Show," heard live each weekday from noon to 3 p.m. Eastern on Air America Radio, will go on display in a one-hour edition on Sundance each night at 11:30 p.m. and 2:30 a.m., executives at both networks told The Associated Press on Monday.

The "Franken" TV hour is currently scheduled through the November election, but all parties voiced hope the show would continue on Sundance indefinitely.

"It would be nice if it were a permanent home," Franken said.

A writer-performer who helped launch NBC's "Saturday Night Live" three decades ago, Franken in recent years has been more identified as a left-leaning political humorist whose best-selling books include "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right."

He became a talk-show host when Manhattan-based Air America signed on in March as a response to the mostly conservative world of talk radio. At Air America, Franken joined a roster of other liberal personalities including actress-comedian Janeane Garofalo (news), radio veteran Randi Rhodes and Lizz Winstead, a co-creator of "The Daily Show."

The Air America network includes stations in 19 markets and growing. Markets include New York, Miami, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Anchorage, Alaska, and San Diego. It is also heard on the XM and Sirius satellite radio networks, as well as through the Internet on streaming audio.

Distribution through Sundance will mean welcome added exposure for the show, and Air America overall, said Doug Kreeger, the network's chairman.

"It takes the network and lets people see how it works," he said. "It puts a face to our voice."

Each day, with co-host Katherine Lanpher, Franken offers irreverent commentary, interviews and comedy segments often with an anti-Bush Administration theme: "Anything I can do to get this guy out of office I'll do, and to get (John) Kerry in," he said.

Franken's unabashedly partisan slant was somewhat beside the point in bringing him to Sundance, said Larry Aidem, president of the network (a venture between Robert Redford, NBC Universal and Showtime Networks Inc.).

"In a digital television environment, it is important to be relevant and talked about," said Aidem, "but that's not to say we'll do anything to get on the radar screen."

More important, he said, was the effect the Franken show would have on broadening the scope of the network, whose primary focus is independent feature films and documentaries.

"This is an opportunity for us to be in partnership with a personality who we think is extremely attractive to our audience," he said — "someone funny, smart, insightful."

"They just approached us, and we said yes," Franken explained when asked how the Sundance alliance happened.

"I don't know how much I'm going to make an effort to adapt the show to TV," he added, suggesting he might follow the example of Don Imus, whose widely syndicated radio show has been simulcast on cable's MSNBC since 1996.

"Imus does nothing to adapt to TV but sit up straight," Franken said.