There are many Anderson Coopers now, collect them all! There is Action Anderson, the fit 44-year-old news anchor who likes to drop everything, don a gray T-shirt and chase the big story, which delivers him unto war zones and disaster sites, where, if his CNN publicists are to be believed, he Asks Questions No One Else Will Ask.
There is also Adorable Anderson, the great-great-great-grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, the rich kid with the aw-shucks humility. This more-popular Anderson will always get in the way of Action Anderson’s journalistic idealism. Adorable Anderson is the one who hosts the ball-drop show with kooky Kathy Griffin every New Year’s Eve and is as likely to turn up in a “Saturday Night Live” sketch with Pee-wee Herman as he is in “tornado alley.” Adorable Anderson is the one who nearly collapsed in a teary-eyed fit of giggles last month on his nightly CNN show during a pun-laced segment about Gerard Depardieu’s public-urination misadventure. The clip of that went viral, which reignited in many viewers a complicated longing for a man some call “America’s secret boyfriend.”
You can either admit this to yourself or not. It’s the undetermined sexuality, the androgyne in the Ralph Lauren black-label suit; the catlike handsomeness; the silvery white hair and piercing blue eyes. Even cuter is how he makes a show of being terribly uncomfy with all the attention.
Now a third version: Daytime Anderson, whose eponymous talk show got off to a solid and emotional — if somewhat mealy — start in most syndication markets on Monday, devoting its hour to interviewing the grieving parents of British singer Amy Winehouse, who died in July.
Daytime Anderson wishes to somehow merge the best of Action Anderson (who is keeping his night job on CNN) and Adorable Anderson into a superior Anderson that can fill some of the highly coveted space vacated when Oprah Winfrey ended her talk show in the spring after 25 seasons. The race to fill that space has had an early victor in Dr. Oz, whose show has nabbed the majority of Oprah’s stations and time slots. (Washington’s WJLA is one of the few stations that put “Anderson” where Oprah was, weekdays at 4 p.m.)
The real missed opportunity here is that by launching his own show — a process that took a year — Cooper won’t be able to take retiring Regis Philbin’s place on “Live With Regis and Kelly.” Anyone who’s seen the hilarious chemistry between Kelly Ripa and Adorable Anderson, who pitched in as co-host during Philbin’s frequent absences, would agree.
By choosing to go somber with the Winehouses, “Anderson” didn’t give viewers too much Adorable Anderson (that will presumably come later this week, when “Jersey Shore’s” Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi takes him out for a spray tan and Depardieu grants an interview).
Instead the show smartly focused on Daytime Anderson, who more often than not will be called on to administer empathetic hugs and share more of his personal perspective than he’s previously been comfortable with.