Their relevance perhaps redefined by the partisan chat that fills 24/7 cable outlets, the Sunday shows still provide a study in network news competition at the highest national level. New hosts, new sets, new producers, new segments, old segments returning. As the election cycle begins to heat up the battle among these shows, observing the adaptations among the rarefied pool of TV players can make for intriguing Sunday morning quarterbacking.
Other homegrown series ply the same goods. “Inside Washington” and “Washington Week” generate some Friday night light on their roundtables. But nowhere on TV do the networks flex their political muscle, one against the other, as on Sunday morning.
Commitment to a format that loyal viewers expect vies with the interests of new talent and the allure of new technology. With the ratings and rankings of the shows perhaps more fluid than in any recent election cycle, here’s a survey of the four network political shows.
No. 3: “THIS WEEK WITH CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR,” ABC
AVERAGE VIEWERSHIP: 2.1 MILLION
“My goal is that Christiane’s program will be the most-watched program on Sunday.”
No faulting just-hired Rick Kaplan for lack of ambition. Placed in the executive producer seat at ABC’s third-ranked “This Week With Christiane Amanpour” on May 12, the day after he resigned as executive producer of “CBS Evening News” with Katie Couric, the TV veteran knows what he is getting into.
As in his last job, he is tasked with elevating an also-ran newscast hosted by a woman in a male-dominated arena, whose journalism bona fides were earned in a venue far different from the one where she now finds herself. Kaplan never managed to craft a half-hour around Couric that captured the personality of her “Today Show” rise to fame. Or one that moved above third place.
In the first month, Kaplan’s determination to better serve Amanpour — best known as a foreign correspondent — was evident. First, he returned two “This Week” staples that had been scuttled with her arrival: “Sunday Funnies” (clips of political humor from late-night shows) and “In Memoriam” (mini-obits of noteworthy people and a listing of the war dead).
“You know, I don’t why they disappeared,” says Kaplan, reluctant to criticize the choices of the five — yes, five — producers who preceded him in the past year. “Let’s just say: Those segments disappeared, and when I came here I put them back.” And with some oddly personal editorial decisions: In one “In Memoriam,” of the two deaths featured, Katie Couric’s father was selected. (The other: North Carolina State University basketball star Lorenzo Charles.)