When Oprah Winfrey shuttered her long-running syndicated talk show in 2011, she left a void in the daytime-TV landscape that the networks have spent a year trying to fill without success — until now. On Monday, Katie Couric's syndicated new talker, Katie, debuted to stellar ratings, smashing competing efforts hosted by Jeff Probst, Ricki Lake, and Anderson Cooper, and earning the biggest audience for a daytime talk show in a decade. Can Katie sustain its early lead, and make the onetime Today host and CBS News anchor the biggest name in daytime television since Oprah?
Katie is an unqualified success: In both quality and ratings, Katie "is a big winner," says John Friedman at MarketWatch. Couric was "the queen of morning television" during her 15 years as an anchor on NBC's Today, and the new time slot and informal broadcast style "fit her like a glove." Katie's format plays to Couric's strengths as an interviewer without forcing her to "deliver the grim news that was a staple of her life at the CBS Evening News." And perhaps most importantly for anyone looking to claim Oprah's crown, the "large audience of women" who loved her on Today are likely to tune in.
"Kate Couric will be a big winner"
Despite its ratings, Katie is a disappointment: "If Couric was the best and brightest candidate to replace Oprah, things are not looking good, America," says Mary McNamara at the Los Angeles Times. Instead of using Couric's experience as a news anchor to make a talk show that's "a little smarter than most," Katie's first episode — which featured softball interviews with guests Jessica Simpson and Sheryl Crow — failed to spark conversation on "a level that does not insult the intelligence of her viewership." If Couric wants to be the next Oprah, she'll need to use the format to "talk about things that matter."
"Katie goes splat"
Katie isn't the next Oprah — and no show ever will be: "There probably can't be a new Oprah because this isn't 25 years ago," says David Weigand at the San Francisco Chronicle. When Oprah premiered, her primary competition was soap operas and game shows, but as those two once-venerable genres have declined in popularity, daytime TV has become "full to bursting" with talk shows. In her era, Oprah could be "all things to at least many, if not all, viewers," but modern hosts need to be satisfied with "a slice of the daytime talk show audience."
"TV review: Katie talks and hawks"