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Can a Married Couple Save CNN?

The dynamic CNN duo of Mark Whitaker and Amy Entelis were at it again Friday, shooting another pilot that they hope could potentially be the savior for a network going through growing pains.

Whitaker, Executive VP and managing editor of CNN Worldwide, and his hire to head program development, Entelis, are joined at the hip in trying to come up with new ideas for the network, desperately hoping the next boss will keep them around when the anticipated senior executive bloodletting comes to pass.

Who is playing Batman and Robin this time? CNN contributors John Avlon and Margaret Hoover an independent and moderate conservative on air, and off, married. That’s right, CNN is seriously thinking about launching a show with a married couple. They’re no James Carville and Mary  Matalin, a big liberal and conservative. Some still find them entertaining.

Avlon, a columnist for The Daily Beast, has fast become a favorite of the CNN suits in New York, especially with Whitaker, a longtime member of the NY/DC media elite who, insiders say, would love nothing more than turn CNN into a TV version of the NYT.

Avlon is the designated independent voice on the network, even though he is a former speechwriter for former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. He also has a fantastic head of hair.

Hoover, a middle-of-the-road conservative, also has the kind of pedigree that makes Whitaker salivate. She’s the great-granddaughter of former president Herbert Hoover; an author; and landed at CNN several months ago after failing to come to contractual terms with Fox News. She also brings some of that Fox News hotness, which some think CNN could stand to adopt.

The pilots generated by the program development unit at CNN have left much to be desired as of late, so Entelis reached out to the force behind the CNN Heroes initiative, Kelly Flynn, to helm the pilot. She was a former exec in the program development unit when CNN’s former Executive Director of Program and Talent Development  Joel Cheatwood, who left for Fox News and is now Exec. VP of Mercury Radio Arts, ran the joint. (Boy is he missed!).

Entelis, Flynn, Avlon and Hoover spent all of Friday shooting the pilot in New York, hoping it will be good enough to impress outgoing CNN head honcho Jim Walton, and Phil Kent, head of Turner. With Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes applying the pressure to resuscitate the dying brand, the effort has an urgent feel.

But Avlon and Hoover should beware of mixing it up on the air. The last CNN married couple that was seen daily – John King and Dana Bash – later headed for Splitsville. Sure, she wasn’t a co-host on John King, U.S.A., but she was on so much when it launched that it should have been called the John and Dana Show.

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