What liberal media? Conservative pundit Tucker Carlson now headlines two shows — and Fox News Channel doesn't air either of them. The cohost of CNN's Crossfire is crossing over to PBS with a new talk show, Tucker Carlson: Unfiltered (debuting tonight; check local listings). TV Guide Online turned the tables on Carlson, grilling him about Britney Spears, his bow-tie habit and potential chat-show rivals Rev. Al Sharpton and Howard Dean.
TV Guide Online: So what kinds of guests should we look forward to seeing on Unfiltered?
Tucker Carlson: Only the most interesting. Anybody who has a talk show gets frustrated by the endless chase after name guests — some of whom are good, most of whom are not. Typically in Washington, the mindset is get the guy with the best title. I want to get the guy with the best information and the ability to convey it. Someone who doesn't use euphemisms and government-speak and doesn't bulls--t.
TVGO: What types of topics will you discuss?
Carlson: We're not going to stick just to politics. You will never hear the words cloture or filibuster on our show. I want to do a real debate about what's in the news. For example, there's a pretty good case to be made for torture. I don't think I buy it personally, but I'd like to hear it. There are people who support it but are afraid to speak up, and I hope we'll be a place where you can.
TVGO: You interviewed Britney Spears on CNN. Do you want to have her on Unfiltered?
Carlson: I want to do a lot of — okay, now you're baiting me. I'm trying not to talk about sex in public. With some encouragement from above, I'm trying to exercise a little self-control, which is not so easy if you're me. I would love to have Britney Spears on again. I wasn't exactly sure who she was. I've got three daughters, and for some reason, news of Britney Spears hasn't percolated down to my house.
TVGO: Will we see any of your Crossfire cronies, like James Carville?
Carlson: Yeah, the chance to interview James might be too tempting to pass up. It might be fun to torture him.
TVGO: How did you get a show on PBS, that bastion of the liberal media?
Carlson: I have no idea what led them to offer me the job. All I know is they've been liberal in the best way about the show. They said, "Do whatever you want. Make the best television you can." Not one person has suggested that I tone down my views — just the opposite. I confess it does contradict my previously held assumptions, but that's the beauty of life.
TVGO: Esquire recently named you one of the 10 best-dressed men in America. What kind of wardrobe budget has PBS given you?
Carlson: None. I buy clothes once every 10 years, whether I need to or not.
TVGO: So it's Bring Your Own Bow Tie?
Carlson: Yeah, B.Y.O.B.T. That's all right. I'm wearing a pair of shoes I bought in 1991. As long as you keep them shined and resole them once a year, you're good to go. I'm all for thrift in clothing. I'm not David Gest.
TVGO: Are you worried about competing with future talk-show host Al Sharpton?
Carlson: The Reverend Al's a good friend of mine. He promised, if elected, to make me the head of Amtrak. For me, it's a long process overcoming the profound disappointment that he didn't win the nomination. I would never, ever try and compete with Sharpton. Having seen him preach, he's amazing.
TVGO: What do you think about the prospect of Howard Dean getting a talk show?
Carlson: It's hard to see what kind of show he'd do. I admire Dean in a way, but he's got to have one of the most unappealing personalities I've ever come across. I feel sorry for him. Look how long it's taken Al Gore to figure out what to do. He's less talented than Dean, but he's pretty smart, and it's taken him this long to buy some stupid Canadian cable channel. Can you imagine? Does the world need more Canadian television?
TVGO: But hasn't Gore said he wants his network to appeal to young people?
Carlson: In contrast to the rest of television? It's like, sorry, Mr. Vice President, all of television hopes to appeal to young people. You think this is a new idea? It's so stupid. Political people are actually less smart than good TV producers. A good TV producer is a total genius, whereas a really good politician is just moderately intelligent.