Donahue , no firecracker

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Phil Donahue's return to television, while not exactly triumphant, was good
enough for second place in the competitive 8 p.m. EST time slot.

Donahue notched a 0.9 rating for his MSNBC debut Monday night, according to
Nielsen Media Research data.

The talk-show veteran edged out Cable News Network's Connie Chung, who registered a 0.8
rating.

Both, however, trailed well behind Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly, who
continued his dominance with an 2.1 rating and 2.3 million viewers.

Backed by a heavy promotional blitz, Donahue attracted 1.1 million
viewers, compared with 805,000 tuning into watch Chung. The two shows were closer
in household delivery, though, with Chung eeking out about 12,000 more
households.

MSNBC's second new offering, Jerry Nachman, didn't fare nearly as well. At 7
p.m., Nachman mustered a 0.3 rating with 231,000 households.

CNN's Crossfire, in an above-average outing, notched a 0.6 with
519,000 households.

Fox News won the time slot, though, with Shepard Smith's show grabbing a 1.1
rating with 874,000 households.

Reaction from television writers to Donahue's premiere ranged from critical
to sympathetic.

Of Donahue's Pledge of Allegiance debate with conservative commentator Pat
Buchanan, Newsday's Verne Gay remarked, "more gas -- noisy gas, at that."

Of another segment featuring former United Nations inspector Scott Ritter and Sen. James
Inhoffe (R-Okla.) squaring off over attacking Iraq, Associated Press television
writer Frazier Moore said Donahue "proved too much of a gentleman (or was he a
bit rusty?) to properly officiate the debate."

Donahue also dished on Major League Baseball with sports broadcaster Bob
Costas and interviewed the widow of slain CIA agent Mike Spann. (Spann's father
appeared on Connie Chung Tonight and The O'Reilly Factor).

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