August 29, 2008

‘Joe’ Meets Average Joe

By Dusty Saunders

Sam's No. 3 regularly offers traditional hearty breakfast fare like bacon, eggs and pancakes. But this week's menu also contains a saucy side dish designed for customers - and TV viewers - who have hearty political appetites.

Morning Joe, MSNBC's rising- in-popularity early-weekday talk show, has been broadcasting live from the popular diner at 15th and Curtis streets.

Obviously, Sam's No. 3 is not a soundproof TV studio. Joe Scarborough and co-hosts Mika Brzezinski and Willie Geist have been interviewing a constant stream of guests in a corner of the diner amid the sounds of clanking pans and silverware, waitresses taking orders, and customers laughing, shouting and bumping into one another.

This is as grass-roots and democratic as a national TV talk show gets.

The New York-based series has been on the road regularly since the lengthy primary season began, often broadcasting from venues like Sam's.

"We're literally staying in touch with the people," said the irrepressible Scarborough, a former Republican House member from Florida.

After Wednesday's show, Scarborough and Brzezinski posed for photos with customers who came from counters and tables, coffee cups in hand and some with morning jam still on their faces.

Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune columnist and frequent guest on the show, talked to numerous breakfast patrons.

Morning Joe premiered in April 2007 after the demise of Don Imus. It was created by Scarborough, who had been hosting a prime-time MSNBC series, Scarborough Country.

The format features the hosts interviewing ever-changing, three- member panels consisting of politicians, journalists and fellow NBC press members, often in freewheeling, contentious style.

Scarborough recently tangled with MSNBC reporter David Shuster over political issues, while Brzezinski, a former CBS correspondent, gained popularity - or notoriety - for refusing to read a headline news report saying Paris Hilton had been released from prison. Deeming the report too much of a tabloid story, she eventually shoved the script into a paper shredder.

Brzezinski noted that many at NBC had believed Morning Joe was simply a "stopgap show.""I think that perception has changed," she added.

Morning Joe, normally aired live from 4 to 7 a.m., has been a five-hour production this week, airing until 9 a.m. The same schedule will be followed in Minneapolis-St. Paul next week during the Republican National Convention.

Originally published by Dusty Saunders, Special to the Rocky.

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