LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - CNN's primetime talk show anchored by disgraced ex-New York governor Eliot Spitzer and journalist Kathleen Parker debuted to low viewership and scathing reviews, with comments on Tuesday ranging from "unbearable" to "icky" and "obnoxious".
Spitzer, a Democrat who was forced to resign in 2008 for hiring high-priced prostitutes, and Parker, a Pulitzer Prize-winning conservative Washington Post columnist, were hired by CNN in a bid to add some fireworks to its struggling evening line-up.
But barely a good word could be found on Tuesday for the new "Parker Spitzer" show, which debuted one night earlier as a daily discussion about politics and other hot button issues.
Monday's debut also drew disappointing ratings, attracting an audience of 454,000, the Nielsen company said. The figure put CNN in fourth place in the time-slot, well below "The O'Reilly Factor" on Fox News (3.1 million), and "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" on MSNBC (1.1 million).
The New York Times said the Spitzer scandal "cast an awkward shadow" over the pair's chemistry and gave the show an "ickiness factor" that was hard to watch.
Time magazine's James Poniewozik also felt uncomfortable, saying the show struggled to find its tone, and he called the closing "round-table" section "just vapid".
The New York Post headlined its review "Freak show unbearable to watch", while the Baltimore Sun summed up the first show as "a load of obnoxious, self-important noise."
Audiences for CNN have fallen sharply in recent years against more strident conservative shows from rivals Fox News and liberal cable TV alternative MSNBC.
Dan Kennedy of Britain's Guardian newspaper said that "'Parker Spitzer' did nothing to reverse the notion that CNN is utterly lost." He called parts of the show "wretchedly unwatchable".
"Parker Spitzer" made its debut after two weeks of turmoil at CNN, which pioneered 24-hour TV news in the 1980s and has clung to its nonpartisan approach.
CNN's U.S. chief Jon Klein, who hired both Parker and Spitzer, was pushed out in a management shuffle last month before their new show made its debut.
On Friday, CNN news anchor Rick Sanchez -- a Cuban-American -- was abruptly fired after making remarks on a U.S. radio show suggesting the U.S. media was controlled by Jews, and calling popular satirical "Daily Show" TV host Jon Stewart a "bigot".
Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte