Katie Couric: Can the Former TV Newscaster Make It as a Talk Show Host?

By Wood, Daniel B. | The Christian Science Monitor, September 9, 2012 | Go to article overview

Katie Couric: Can the Former TV Newscaster Make It as a Talk Show Host?


Wood, Daniel B., The Christian Science Monitor


Katie Courics new afternoon talk show debuts Monday as pundits and public ask the burning question: Since she was too chatty for evening news, will she be too newsy for afternoon chat?

Her first week of guests include Jessica Simpson, who will talk about the challenge of losing pregnancy weight; Aimee Copeland, the 24-year-old Georgia grad student who gained national attention over the summer for losing parts of her limbs to flesh-eating bacteria; and Jennifer Lopez, who will talk about life after American Idol. Ms. Couric will also introduce a segment called YOLO (You Only Live Once), as she takes a lap around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with racecar driver Danica Patrick.

Later segments include a bucket list of to-dos, and Women Who Should Be Famous.

Katie broadcast live from New York with a studio audience will be aired at 3 p.m. in most markets, produced and distributed by Disney-ABC. Couric also has a separate deal to appear occasionally on ABC News.

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The answer to how well this show does will say a lot about American TV, changing audience tastes, talk show hosts, ratings, and network income, analysts say.

After 15 years at NBCs Today Show and five years as anchor and news director of The CBS Evening News, can Courics combination of personality, perkiness, and gravitas draw viewers, especially in a schedule jammed with alternatives? Those will include former Survivor host Jeff Probst, comedian Steve Harvey, Britains Trish Goddard, and the return of veteran Ricki Lake.

Some suggest the answer may not say anything about Courics abilities at all.

Maybe there is a saturation point that will nullify her success, which has nothing to do with her intrinsic qualities, says Len Shyles, professor of communication at Villanova University. Steve Harvey, Maury Povich, The View, The Five, Dr. Phil, Morning Joe, Imus on cable, The Today Show, Kelly Ripa. On and on. The glut is obvious. She will likely fail, not because of her, but because of the nature of the beast.

Mr. Shyles and others feel the TV landscape has changed so much that the field is wide open for a pioneer to reinvent the afternoon talk show genre.

Could Oprah come back in this market? Could Phil Donohue? Even Geraldo has gone to radio, he says.

Besides what the move says about TV audiences and tastes, analysts will be looking to see what it means for Couric, who may have to reinvent herself after five years as CBS anchor.

Couric tried to liven up the format of CBS Evening News, but she was never able to lift it out of third place behind NBC and ABC. The others widened their ratings leads even as her broadcast won several awards, including four Emmys.

"Katie Courics effort to establish herself as a serious journalist will be instantly undercut when she hosts a TV talk show that covers a gamut of front-burner subjects all the way from gray hair to Shades of Grey, a stable of suburban reading groups seeking soft-core stimulation, says Ben Agger, director of the Center for Theory at the University of Texas in Arlington. …

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