Daytime Anderson is home, telling his audience (at least half of them appeared to be young women and girls decked out in Amy Winehouse frocks, ratted beehives and smeary Cleopatra eyes) that he “always wants [the show] to be real. . . . Something you can use in your real life.”
The interview with the Winehouse family (her parents were joined by an aunt, a great aunt and Winehouse’s boyfriend) was pretty good as far as such things go — and a safe choice for a first show. Winehouse’s father, Mitch, is a talk-show host’s dream, articulate in his grief without crumbling in tears. Early toxicology reports indicate Winehouse was not on illegal drugs when she died; her parents believe she died of going cold-turkey from alcohol.
Action Anderson stepped in, walking them through the sequence of discovering that their daughter had died and also reminding them that a further toxicology analysis is a month away, which means the truth has not yet fully arrived. Action Anderson prefers the truest version of true, which already sets him apart from, say, “Ellen,” who has a tendency not to challenge her guests and keeps things extra-light. “It’s hard for you,” Adorable Anderson stepped in and offered, during a difficult pause.
As the show drifted into the daytime talk genre’s horrible habit of larding up the back half with endless commercial breaks, Cooper also shared — as he has shared countless times before — the painful phone call he received after his brother’s suicide in 1988. “I felt like the room had collapsed.”
For all three Anderson Coopers, this sharing gets into a permanently tricky territory, which all TV news personalities recognize, that there are entirely personal stories they can tell about themselves, which in turn provide a warmer style of journalism and keep viewers coming back.
Which, when it comes to the prospect of watching “Anderson” day after day, leads to a personal question he has declined to answer many times about his sexual orientation. Cooper has said before that he decided long ago to keep his private life private, a lesson learned watching his famous mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, endure press scrutiny. Also, he doesn’t want it to get in the way of journalistic objectivity.
Fair enough, but that’s not what viewers want in an afternoon talk-show host. This job is all about spilling it — whether it’s the guest or the host. We have a ways to go before we know all of the Andersons there are to know. Exasperation with the question (is he or isn’t he?) is merely the best-marked exit door from a possibly awkward conversation. Yet, when you have (or watch) a daytime talk show in which the stated goal is “truth” and “something real,” those should be your most favorite conversations of all.
(one hour) airs weekdays at 4 p.m. on WJLA.