Is Anderson Cooper the next Oprah?
The debut of the celebrated journalist's new daytime talk show includes an emotional interview with Amy Winehouse's family. Are critics impressed?
A dressed-down-for-daytime Anderson Cooper launched his new afternoon talk show, Anderson, Monday, sitting down with Amy Winehouse's family to discuss the young singer's tragic death. Cooper, who served as guest host more than 30 times on Live with Regis and Kelly, will continue to host his nightly CNN show. His new daytime show — which airs in many markets during the slot once occupied by Oprah Winfrey — has high hopes attached to it. Before the premiere, Bill Carter at The New York Times predicted that Cooper is "one of the great hopes to inherit the audience Ms. Winfrey leaves behind." Can Cooper succeed?
He's already hitting the right tone: Selecting Winehouse's parents for the first show was inspired, says Ken Tucker at Entertainment Weekly. It kicked things off with a topic that's both serious — "to resonate with his hard-news capability" — and pop culture-related — "to signal that he's going to do celebrity-themed shows." The interview was captivating and poignant, with Cooper interjecting details from his personal life — like how his brother's suicide horrified and numbed him — at appropriate times. "All in all, a good opening day."
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Actually, he was too "stiff and impersonal": A good talk show host bares his "inner soul," says Hadley Freeman at Britain's Guardian. Cooper, however, "maintained the stiff formality of a news interviewer." Yes, he partially opened up when discussing his brother's suicide, but "there are no half measures in the world of afternoon talk shows." Whether it's Oprah's frequent tears or Ellen's incessant laughs, the genre requires amped-up emotions. "It's 150 percent or a canceled show."
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And he needs to distinguish himself from the pack: Cooper swears that his daytime endeavor is an outlet for exploring his other interests, says Mary McNamara at the Los Angeles Times. The problem is that, despite his "Vanderbilt/Dalton School/Yale/CNN" pedigree, those interests are "eerily similar to every other daytime talk show's host." Cooper should be thinking about ways to elevate the genre. "What's the point of being Anderson Cooper if you're just going to waste it on hanging out with Snooki?"
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There's no denying that Anderson has potential: America is already familiar with two different Anderson Coopers, says Hank Steuver at The Washington Post. There's Action Anderson, who dons a gray T-shirt to "chase the big story," and Adorable Anderson, who yuks it up with Kathy Griffin on New Year's Eve. Now, Daytime Anderson may merge the best of the two: Action Anderson handled the Winehouse interview expertly, while Adorable Anderson doled out audience hugs.
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