I'll admit it -- I've always liked Anderson Cooper. Maybe it's his ability to handle Kathy Griffin's potty-mouthed teasing during his New Year's Eve broadcasts, maybe it was his willingness to help (and yes, cast aside journalistic detachment, but come on, some kid got hit in the head with a brick) while covering the chaos in Haiti. I'm clearly not the only person with a lot of good will toward Cooper, as he's managed to land a daytime talk show gig, "Anderson," which debuted yesterday.
Before we could get to the topic at hand (Amy Winehouse's parents and boyfriends appeared on the show to discuss her death), Anderson has to introduce the show. While riding a bicycle. Without a helmet. In traffic. While talking to a camera. I would like to be optimistic about the show, but I'm concerned that Cooper is going to end up dead before he can film too many episodes. Maybe tomorrow he can text while driving or jog blindfolded down the middle of a busy Manhattan street.
Thankfully, he gets to the set intact, and some set it is. "The View" should be so lucky. The room is light and airy, there's a roomy, white couch and panoramic views of the city. Cooper quickly informs us that he's "not the most polished person," although I'd argue he definitely looks the part in his slim blue suit, but no matter. He loves people and he love stories, and he's going to bring them to us. More importantly, they will always be real. Cooper is big into real. So far, so good.
But, once Cooper introduces the Winehouses, the show wobbles a bit. Anderson still has some work to do on his couch technique. It'll take time to shake off his reporter's reserve, and too often he lets his guests talk - and talk - when they aren't really saying much. Though the Winehouses are charming and undeniably sympathetic, they're reserved -- and so is Cooper, who politely digs for dish that just isn't there. Though the repeatedly trumpets that the Winehouses are "breaking their silence," the truth is they've been talking to the British press pretty extensively since their daughter's death, and a great deal of what they've said has trickled down to the American public. We know the whole, sad story already -- there are some insights here and there and it's nice to see so much video of Amy Winehouse's whole life (and not just her on-stage meltdowns), but this doesn't seem like the get Cooper wants to convince us it is.
Cooper eventually moves on to take comments from the audience, and there he does seem more comfortable; hugging a teen jazz singer, asking the mother of a deceased addict what advice she gives the Winehouses. While I admire Cooper for dedicating the whole episode to one topic, the hour seems a little long -- and while it may not be long enough for Amy Winehouse fans, I wonder if other viewers tuned out.
As a host, though, Cooper may not be polished (his words), he definitely shows potential. It's clear he wants to connect with his guests, though he almost seems embarrassed by the impulse -- when he mentions how he felt after his own brother committed suicide, he's so reserved he could be reading a news item. I think we'll see Cooper chipping away at his shell in the coming weeks, and it's refreshing to see an addition to daytime that's actually (gasp!) classy. I suspect Anderson Cooper would sooner shave his head than do a baby daddy episode (or at least that's my hope), and while he admits to having a passion for trashy reality TV, let's hope that passion doesn't take him into "People's Court" territory.
What's coming up during the rest of the week seems like a potentially heady mix of drama and silliness: Anderson gets a spray tan with Snooki (I guess this falls under the heading of his passion for trashy reality TV) and hangs out with Kathy Griffin, he talks to his mother Gloria Vanderbilt about his brother's suicide, he grills Kyle of "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," he asks Gerard Depardieu about why he peed on a plane (if you haven't seen Anderson's giggle fest about the story on "AC 360," it's worth finding on YouTube). I think, though there are clearly rough patches in need of smoothing, Anderson Cooper's going to be just fine.