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TheStreet Open House

The Cutting Room: 'Ask Cramer' Debuts

You know it's an hour to show time when:

  • Dave "Always-doing-four-things-at-once" Kansas rips open the packaging of a spanking new French blue shirt, while discussing Internet metrics with several analysts, all the while tossing around some jokes with TSC king-of-the-one-liner Dan Colarusso;
  • The calculators-of-ace production assistant William Gregson and associate producer Alison Moore start to smoke after an afternoon of plying the percentages, making sure every stock's change from its 52-week high is perfect in show graphics;
  • Producer Gary Schreier, whose energy levels are second only to those of Jim Cramer (he's been at work since before daybreak, writing the script, overseeing every detail from discussion topics to satellite times, and will head out for a road trip with friends as soon as the show is put to bed) preps the regulars on how to have a "fabulous" show;
  • Adam Lashinsky (sans his sidekick, the Chartman, who is off preparing his naturally athletic daughters for a pre-Olympics swim meet) rushes into the San Francisco studio to get hooked up. His role as Silicon Valley columnist in Word on the Street has become critical, since all the market talk is tech.
  • But what's this? For the first time:

  • The phone banks flash like mad as dozens of anxious callers try for a moment on the air during the debut of a special segment: "Ask Cramer."
  • And this will be no typical "buy or sell" segment that is the stuff of business programming these days. You won't hear Ernie from Illinois waste precious time complimenting the host on her outfit, then stumble as he mumbles his technical and fundamental analysis before the guest can get a word in, and you won't get a diet of wimpy "long-term holds" from the stock picker on companies he thinks are "good but currently misunderstood by Wall Street."

    Nope, Schreier has given me my marching orders. I'm told quality and quantity -- and he'll be counting the number of calls we get on the air. And Cramer has made it clear he's no shrinking violet (as if we would ever mistake Mr. Opinion himself for such); he's just raring to say exactly what he thinks about any stock the viewers fire at him.

    Five minutes to air. I head into the studio to tape our "cold open," that part of the show dedicated to what's coming up. I have a special guest in the control room today, and instead of Gary's usually enthusiastic "Have a fantastic show!", I hear those words from my husband, Larry.

    The rest of the cast files into the studio: Kansas, Cramer, and SG Cowen Internet analyst Scott Reamer, while Lashinsky waves hello from San Francisco.

    Then we're off and running. First topic, what else but the market somersaults? The Dow's crack through 10,000 several times during the week and finally the close below that number for the first time in nearly a year. I throw the question to JJC -- not just "Is the Dow in free fall?" but, knowing his penchant for tech-tech-tech, "Does it matter?"

    No value guys in the ranks here, but a spirited debate about what makes the highfliers fly higher. The discussion is so good we dump the second planned topic and the argument even spills over into the break.

    Schreier runs into the studio, list of callers in hand. Our phone bank can handle only 12 at a time and we've got every line going, plus several email questions. But Cramer instantly announces, "That's not enough. I'll whip through these." (Just as a yardstick, most shows cover three stocks at the most during their stock-picking segments.)

    The red light goes on, stage manager Dave counts me down, and it's straight to the phones. As usual, Cramer minces words. NOT! He tells one woman that she should get off the phone immediately and sell her stock, 'cause it's a loser. (No, I'm not going to tell you which one, you'll have to watch the show!)

    The segment flies by and before we know it, Schreier's saying, "Wrap."

    Time for TSC Scoreboard, with "Thunder" Dan Colarusso jumping in for vacationing Herb Greenberg. Reamer defends his three picks from an appearance several months ago. Amazon (AMZN) and HotJobs (HOTJ) are about the same price as when he recommended them, but DoubleClick (DCLK) is up nearly 60%. Still, it's the most controversial; Cramer, worried about the company's privacy problems, sold the stock last week. Reamer doesn't back down though, making a strong case for it.

    Last up and often the most fun part of the show: Predictions. Dan thinks a big brokerage/bank deal is in the works, and Cramer believes the Dow will slide more than rally. Again, in the interest of ratings, I'll not telling you Dave's forecast. He, after all, is the one who nailed it last week by predicting the Dow's slide through 10,000 by Friday. Watch the show, or check out our video clips on the site!

    A final "Wrap" from Schreier.

    William and Alison's calculators are still smoking; Adam gets unhooked from the studio to go get more dish from the Valley; Dave changes back into his jeans.

    But this show, 15 satisfied callers and countless viewers got a chance to do what we are lucky enough to do every Friday: Ask Cramer.

    Brenda Buttner's column, Under the Hood, appears Thursdays. At time of publication, Buttner held no positions in any securities mentioned in this column, although holdings can change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks or funds. While she cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, Buttner appreciates your feedback at TSCBrenda@aol.com.

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