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Tell Tucker it's a comedy

I can't claim much in the way of intellectual superiority over CNN's Tucker Carlson — I belong to an organization (the Television Critics Association) that named Jon Stewart's "Daily Show" the top news and information program last season. But, on the other hand, I didn't vote for it.

Carlson seems more confused than I am, however. On "Crossfire" last week, he and Stewart got into a rather nasty verbal brawl. And Stewart started it, calling the CNN show not just "very bad" but adding that "it's hurting America" because the hosts are "partisan hacks" who play into the strategies of both liberals and conservatives.

Can't argue with his logic, but it wasn't very nice. Although, had Carlson and co-host Paul Begala played along, it might have made for a funny and entertaining bit of TV.

But Carlson took huge offense. Apparently unaware that "The Daily Show" is a faux news program that airs on a network called Comedy Central, he fired back at Stewart by mocking the questions he asked Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry when the Massachusetts senator appeared on Stewart's program — accusing him (in rather rude terms) of tossing softball questions.

Stewart seemed surprised at Carlson's tactics.

"If you want to compare your show to a comedy show, you're more than welcome to," Stewart said.

Carlson, losing this battle of wits, couldn't help himself. "Why not ask him a real question, instead of just suck up to him?"

"If your idea of confronting me is that I don't ask hard-hitting enough news questions, we're in bad shape, fellows," Stewart said, reiterating that his is a comedy show.

And he was having none of it when Begala insisted, "We're a debate show."

"You're doing theater when you should be doing debate. . . . To do a debate would be great," Stewart said. "But that's like saying pro wrestling is a show about athletic competition."

That had to hurt, because it's true. "Crossfire" has become what Paddy Chayefsky envisioned in his Oscar-winning screenplay for the 1976 movie "Network" — a mockery of real news, complete with a studio audience that cheers and boos. Which didn't help Carlson's cause when he tried to climb on a journalistic high horse.

"You need to get a job at a journalism school, I think," he told Stewart.

"You need to go to one," Stewart shot back.

And it got a lot more nasty than that, complete with words that can't be reprinted in a family newspaper.

"You had John Kerry on your show and you sniff his throne," Carlson yelled, "and you're accusing us of partisan hackery?"

"Absolutely," Stewart replied. "'You're on CNN. The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls. What is wrong with you?!?"

Good question.

Oh, and to reiterate, I didn't vote for "The Daily Show" in TCA balloting for best news and information show. I even wrote that the fact that it won was both "ridiculous" and "stupid."

I know it's a comedy show. Somebody should tell Carlson.

ALOHA, "HAWAII": Effective immediately, the lame, derivative, throwback of a cop show, "Hawaii," is off NBC's schedule. The network, which is having lots and lots (and lots) of problems this fall, can't afford to have the series dragging down its Wednesday-night schedule with the November sweeps almost upon us.

Beginning Oct. 27, "LAX" moves from Mondays at 9 p.m. to Wednesdays at 7 p.m., replacing "Hawaii." (Um, don't think that's going to work.) And, on Nov. 8, a short-run reality show, "The $25 Million Hoax," will air Mondays at 9 p.m.

Based on a British reality show, "Hoax" features a young woman who has to convince her family she's won $25 million. If she does, she wins a somewhat smaller prize.

After that, well, NBC programmers will have to scramble to find something.


E-mail: pierce@desnews.com