The Anniversary Blues: Can Katie, Meredith and The View Turn it Around One Year Later?
On one hand, they're perfect opportunities to revisit subjects that otherwise don't have much new news about them -- like, say, the continuing lack of progress in rebuilding after Katrina.
But anniversaries can also be quite inconvenient when the past 12 months haven't been so pretty. And there's no escaping how much better things looked 12 months ago for Katie, Meredith and the View.
A year ago Wednesday, Katie Couric was about to make history as the first woman to anchor the evening news solo -- the same day that Rosie O'Donnell was about to help supercharge ratings for The View by bringing her fan-friendly self to ABC's daytime chatfest and a week before former View co-host Meredith Vieira was to take Couric's former gig on NBC's powerhouse morning show, Today.
Now, Couric has scored the lowest ratings of anyone to sit in CBS' anchor chair, the Today show's viewership is down by more than 400,000 people and O'Donnell has fled The View in a cloud, following a bitter onstage argument with the program's resident Bush apologist, Elisabeth Hasselbeck.
Where do they go from here? Check my prescription for them all from today's Floridian:
To Whoopi Goldberg: Bring the noise, but keep it outside the family.
Unfortunately, when she tangled with her follow panelists, especially Hasselbeck, it felt more like watching a married couple fight at a dinner party - embarrassing, uncomfortable and way too revealing.
How much you want to bet the star of Sister Act and Burglar comes up short?
ON TV: Catch Whoopi Goldberg's debut on The View,11 a.m. today on WFTS-Ch. 28.
To Meredith Vieira: Own the Today show, already.
But we're past that now. Couric and Lauer may have been the best morning show hosts in the history of the form, and you don't approach those heights by laughing at everybody's jokes and letting Al Roker look like the sharp one.
Vieira needs her own signature franchise, like Lauer's globe-hopping "Where in the World" workouts, and she needs to get off the syndicated Millionaire show to focus entirely on NBC's program. We can all agree on a few things now: bringing a celebrity to the evening news won't make more people watch it, and good as Couric was at hosting a morning show, she hasn't proven to be similarly talented at anchoring a hard news broadcast.
When Couric was in the big chair, there was little doubt who ruled the roost. Vieira still feels like she's visiting someone else's show,leaving viewers disconnected from the show's top female talent.
Time for Vieira to step up. Because nice only gets you so far.
ON TV: Meredith Vieira co-hosts the Today show, 7 to 10 a.m. weekdays on WFLA-Ch. 8.
To Katie Couric: Consider the final option - rebuilding The Early Show.
Truly talented anchors - including Couric in her Today show heyday - make the job look effortless. Who couldn't face a camera and read off headlines, we think; until somebody doesn't do it so well.
For those of us who spent years waking up to Couric, this new gravitas-filled woman seems a shell of her perky self. She hasn't yet owned a story as a journalist the way NBC rival Brian Williams nailed Katrina - though she's anchoring from Iraq and Syria today through Friday - and she doesn't have the hard news tenure of ABC's Charlie Gibson, who had subbed on the evening news for decades before taking it over.
But it's obvious Couric has not brought something unique - or something new viewers really want - to the evening news chair. So why not go back to what we know she does best?
When Bryant Gumbel failed as a newsmagazine anchor at CBS, they parked him on its revamped Early Show. He didn't succeed there either, but like Vieira, he's no Katie Couric.
Saving a perpetually third-place morning show may not be the history-making role Couric envisioned. But pit her against her old colleagues (and Vieira) at Today, and you'll have a competition well worth watching.