Why Alec Baldwin's MSNBC Show May Not Come Back

Alec Baldwin on "Up Late"

"Up Late" suffered from anemic ratings and had trouble booking guests even before the network suspended it after the actor and controversy magnet apologized for a reported homophobic slur.

This story first appeared in the Nov. 29 issue of the The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Alec Baldwin's potentially brief turn as cable news host might be up in the air, but he was struggling well before a paparazzo filmed him Nov. 14 shouting an unconfirmed homophobic slur outside his Manhattan apartment. Before MSNBC pulled the Nov. 15 and Nov. 22 episodes of Up Late With Alec Baldwin, the series was posting lackluster ratings. Five weeks into its 10 p.m. Fridays run, Up Late was down 40 percent from the premiere in both key measurements -- dropping to 395,000 total viewers and 101,000 adults 25-to-54 by its Nov. 8 telecast.

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To his credit, Baldwin, 55, has been helping MSNBC maintain its lead over CNN in the hour -- both are thwarted by Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity -- but another challenge for Up Late has been booking. Despite the host's A-list status, his most noteworthy guests have been Debra Winger and MSNBC host Chris Matthews. (Baldwin's late WNYC podcast boasted Jerry Seinfeld, Lena Dunham and Dick Cavett.)

Baldwin, who apologized for using the term "cocksucker" in a spat with cameramen but denied saying "fag," has an option in his contract to exit after one year. And while MSNBC says Up Late will resume Nov. 29, the host is not convinced. "If the show dies," Baldwin opined Nov. 16, "its fate ends up being no different than the vast majority of startup TV programming."