Time Warner is betting that Anderson Cooper can play to two distinct audiences, sort of like those comedy and tragedy masks.
Cooper’s CNN program is designed to be straight news, albeit with the occasional flash of humor and a bit of I-feel-your-pain emoting. In that respect, he’s become the very model of the modern cable anchor — at least, those not of the partisan-opinion variety.
The audience for that show, as with most news, tends to skew older and can be a bit more male. Yet Cooper’s other hat as host of the Warner Bros.-syndicated daytime program “Anderson,” which premiered Monday, requires appealing to women. It will offer him the opportunity to exhibit more of his personality, though (hopefully) without compromising his news credentials any more than having hosted “The Mole” did.
So how did day one of the operation — transplanting CNN’s anchor into the dreck of daytime syndication — go? Not bad, I guess, provided that Cooper’s seeking to land somewhere between being a more respectable version of Dr. Phil, and a less personable version of Piers Morgan.
“Real. Raw. Ready” the introduction said. But “Calculated. Cool. Colorless” seemed a better description.
Cooper’s “get” for his debut involved interviewing the family of singer Amy Winehouse, who recently overdosed at 27. But the hour that ensued — which included a taped segment that wouldn’t be out of place on any news program — bogged down simply because this kind of single-topic hour is difficult to pull off and make consistently interesting.
Moreover, the preproduction for the premiere was clearly frontloaded. It’s unlikely Cooper’s staff will be able to churn out this level of canned material daily, which means the host’s personality is going to have to shine more.
In a way, it’s easy to root for “Anderson.” Based on the first hour, Cooper looks determined to aim a little higher than most of the soap-opera surrogate crap masquerading as talk in daytime.
That said, if we’ve seen anything about daytime in recent years, it’s difficult to raise the bar unless your name’s “Oprah.”
Of course, judging “Anderson” will take time, especially when he goes goofy and panders to pop-culture sensibilities, with guests like Kathy Griffin (his boundary-pushing CNN New Year’s Eve co-host), “Jersey Shore’s” Snooki and the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” cast also lined up for this week.
Fans can fall back on the old Edward R. Murrow defense — even he did silly celebrity stuff to pay the bills — and to his credit, Cooper appears reluctant about stooping to conquer or going tabloid in tone, despite the topics chosen, to compete in this daypart.
Given that approach, though, here’s some advice: Don’t quit your night job.