By Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist Published Jun 22, 2010 at 11:00 AM
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It was fitting that word came last week that Greta Van Susteren signed a long-term contract to stay in Fox News Channel's 9 p.m. hour.

It was the anniversary of O.J. Simpson's slow-speed chase, which dramatically changed television news. And for Van Susteren, the Simpson case made her a cable TV fixture as a "legal consultant."

Now, she's much much more than that. And she's in her ninth year at the top of the cable news ratings in her time slot, beating CNN's Anderson Cooper and whatever MSNBC puts up against her (MSNBC has just announced it will launch a new 9 p.m. show with Lawrence O'Donnell later this year).

"I have delivered for Fox," Van Susteren told me in a telephone conversation last week. "We have been number one at 10 (Eastern) since the day I walked in the door. Everyone has tried to compete with us. But we have delivered. They're happy, I'm happy, things are great."

It's also fitting that her new contract comes as attention is again focused on the Natalee Holloway case, with the arrest of Joran van der Sloot in Peru for the murder of another young woman. She was on the that story very early.

"Originally, I didn't want to go down and do it," she recalled. "I thought it was the typical American gets drunk, she misses her plane,  she meets some guy and then she'll show up sober in three days.

"I went over to the hotel where Natalee had been staying and knocked on the door of the hotel room she'd been staying in, not knowing if anyone would answer. And, lo and behold, Beth Holloway answers the door.

"I had sort of a bad attitude, I never thought the story was much of a story. But all of a sudden it hit me like a ton of bricks. Here's a mother in a foreign country. I'm looking around the room. I see a suitcase that's half-packed that's Natalee's. Natalee's room is exactly how she left it.

"And I'm thinking, 'Am I going to be just sort of the creepy TV person who swoops in and does a couple days of stories and leaves? Or, am I going to make a personal commitment to myself that I'm going to carry this through to the end?'

"I decided I wanted to carry this through to the end and do the right thing. I didn't know it was going to drag on for five years."

But the format of her nightly, "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren" calls for her to report on more than one story and she's moved far beyond her initial specialty, that came from her first career, as a lawyer.

There is, of course, politics. And two powerful political women have been a focus for Van Susteren, Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton. And she's drawn the contempt from the left for her seemingly sympathetic interviews with Palin -- and a mirror image from the right for her treatment of Clinton.

"They very famous women on two ends of the spectrum," she said. "People think that I'm somehow in bed with either one of them. I'm not. I just think that both women should have a fair chance.

"I don't agree with either one of them on every issue. I don't agree with my husband on every issue.  But what I've said is they ought to have a fair shake, and that's the same thing I said with the O.J. Simpson case that everyone got so mad at me about. I never said he was innocent, I said he should have a fair trial consistent with the Constitution.

"Likewise with these two women, when people think I'm somehow some left-wing nut, or a right-wing nut because I've pushed for fairness for both of them. If people have listened carefully to what I say I've never said anything about whether I agree with them or not. I've said they ought to be treated fairly."

Any conversation Van Susteren has with someone in Wisconsin is certain to turn, at some point to her home state. The Appleton native isn't merely from here. She sees the state as a key factor in shaping her personality.

"I like Midwesterners. When you got a flat tire, we stop and help. We're much more approachable. I talk about Wisconsin every night I get a chance," she said.

"There's nothing that I enjoy more, and I don't mean to be disrespectful to the new friends I've made over the years, but can I tell you, I have friends I went to grade school with in Wisconsin. They are my best friends, by far, in the entire world.

"When I go home and see them, my stomach hurts from laughing. Any chance I get, I come back."

On TV: Comedian Zane Lamprey was performing in Milwaukee over the weekend, now his TV show about drinking towns, "Three Sheets," is in Milwaukee and is supposed to be filming at 6 tonight at Bad Genie, 690 N. Jefferson St. That comes as Lamprey tweets that Travel Channel has picked up the show -- which has been airing on HDNet.

  • A "virtual" version of "Man v. Food" host Adam Richman will be part of an exhibit at Summerfest Thursday through Sunday. It's a promotion for Zantac, a sponsor for the Travel Channel's pig-out show.
  • HBO has ordered a fourth season of "True Blood" for next summer, as the third season airs at 8 p.m. Sundays.
  • While there's been lots of talk of three big-screen "Glee" movies, creator Ryan Murphy tells's Popwatch said no deals are done.
  • Is 24-year-old Amanda Bynes really retiring from acting, after tweeting "I don't love acting anymore so I've stopped doing it"?

Some reality about "reality" TV: Here's an amusing parody of one of those cable "reality" series about grotesquely large families

Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist

Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.

A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.

In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at

When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.