The first instalment of Anderson Cooper’s new live talk show format debuts tonight, Friday, May 14.
“tomorrow night 10pmET, 360 Friday, a different format for #AC360. We hope you’ll tune in. Should be fun. #CNN.”
Back in April, news got out that CNN was experimenting with a live-studio-audience format for cooper, whose 10 p.m. show has been struggling in the ratings for the past year. (42% drop in total viewers; 46% drop among the 25-to-54-year-old audience.)
Regardless of what happened with those initial trial episodes, we hear this talk show special, that airs tonight, was taped this week and features Cooper, a studio audience and a panel of guests. While CNN described the tone of the specials as “conversational” at the time, we hear the tone is mixed – with some harder news segments and other lighter segments.
In fact, it sounds like it could be similar to the traditional AC: 360 episode – except with pauses for applause.
We got a taste of how this new Anderson Cooper format might translate on April 17 when we checked out his live interview with Jack “Dr. Death” Kevorkian.
The interview, which was a plug both for Kevorkian’s appearances this week on Anderson Cooper 360 and the new HBO film “You Don’t Know Jack,” didn’t have the same mass appeal as some of the antics we often see on Cooper’s show, like getting ragged on by Kathy Griffin, or yucking it up with Chelsea Handler the way he did the other night.
He was, however, his usual charismatic self.
He kept the mood light considering his subject was a man who helped 130 terminally ill people kill themselves and then went to jail for eight years because of it. He cracked jokes and got the audience laughing when appropriate. He asked a few hard-hitting questions, too.
But overall, the fact that Anderson Cooper was interviewing Kevorkian didn’t seem to matter much. We probably would have been just as happy (or even happier) with NPR’s Fresh Air host Terry Gross.
Cooper’s good when he plays hardball, like when he grilled Oklahoma State Sen. Randy Brogdon on Tuesday about Tea Party leaders in that state calling for the creation of a private volunteer militia.
But the most enjoyable Anderson Cooper moments are those when things go off the cuff — when he trips up and blushes or his guests make the mood a little uncomfortable.
That’s probably the type of live-audience Anderson Cooper show we’d tune in to watch.
So if it’s more viewers he needs, those more candid, whacky interactions might be the way to go.
And he should book Sarah Palin.
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