Show moves back to old timeslot Friday

ABC newsmag “20/20” returns home this week with a new face at the desk alongside longtime anchor Barbara Walters.

The Alphabet web made it official Sunday: Investigative correspondent John Miller has been named co-anchor of “20/20,” just as the show moves back to its old Friday 10 p.m. timeslot.

Walters had anchored the flagship edition of “20/20” solo since Hugh Downs departed in September 1999.

“I have almost always worked throughout my whole career with a partner,” Walters said during ABC News’ portion of the Television Critics Assn. press tour. “When Hugh left, the big question was, who? And there didn’t seem to be anybody at that point that we all thought was the right person.”

Miller has seen his status rise at the network in the months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks; the reporter is probably best known as the last Western journalist to interview Osama bin Laden, which he did in 1998.

“20/20” exec producer David Sloan dismissed questions over whether Miller, “who at 43 is considerably younger than predecessor Downs,” was brought in to attract a younger audience.

“We could have chosen Chris Cuomo. We could have gone younger,” Sloan said. “John is the right guy because since Sept. 11 he has really distinguished himself and really emerged, in terms of ABC, as a real star.”

Miller started at ABC News in Oct. 1997 as a correspondent for the news division’s law and justice unit. He’s reported for all of the net’s news shows, including “World New Tonight,” “Good Morning America” and “20/20.”

“To take a page from (recent Walters interviewee) Anne Heche, I thought I was from another planet when they (gave me the job),” Miller said.

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