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In a dimly lit meeting hall in the Beverly Hilton Hotel, Anderson Cooper gave members of the press a glimpse of what’s to come.
On Sept 12, the CNN host will showcase his softer side with a daytime talk show, Anderson, which focuses on, as he puts it, “the people behind the headlines.” It will be pre-taped from a midtown Manhattan studio, giving him the flexibility to dart off and chronicle the world’s news for his primetime cable gig.
“I like the idea of having a show that represents all different sides of my personality, from the serious stuff to the silly reality shows that I’m addicted to,” Cooper tells The Hollywood Reporter, acknowledging that the Real Housewives franchise is among the latter, earlier in the day.
With that new daytime hour comes an opportunity — if not a need — to put himself in the spotlight in a way that he’s never had to be as a news man. One only need to look at Oprah Winfrey‘s history of divulging pieces of herself, be it her weight fluctuations or her struggles with sexual abuse, to see the value of opening up about your personal life to connect with viewers. But if this is an aspect of moving into daytime that concerns Cooper, he isn’t letting on.
“I think that camera lens is small and it really transmits what is true, honest and real,” he says. “The way I’ve always worked stuff is just to try to be myself. Sometimes in the news business I’ve gotten knocked because people say I’m too human or in the field I’m too focused on human stories as opposed to the geopolitical significance.”
He continues, “To me, there’s not a big difference between the things that interest me in news and the things that interest me in daytime, so I don’t see it as wearing different hats. I just think in news, it hasn’t been my job to inject my sense of humor and now this is a venue that allows for more personality.”
He proved as much in his meeting with the press, gathered for the semiannual Television Critics Association press tour, sharing stories about making sense of his brother’s suicide — how he would go off to cover wars as an attempt to be around people openly grappling with loss — and his mother’s troubled childhood. Mixed in with these deeply personal stories were jokes about a recent Twitter feud with Piers Morgan and a must-see YouTube video featuring Maria Carey on HSN.
As Cooper and his producers see it, the show will really give him an opportunity to delve deeper into the human interest stories that he’s frequently drawn to as a reporter and person. If the daytime show were already on the air, Cooper says he’d be trying to book Jaycee Dugard. As for Casey Anthony, the controversial must-have of the moment, he and his producers agree that be interested in the interview but not the financial components that would likely come with snagging her.
In addition to those topical guests, he’d like to see marketable stars come through. While he’s not yet ready to cough up his dream guest list, his producer Jim Murphy, formerly of Good Morning America, suggests a Lady Gaga type would be on it. What Cooper and Murphy, along with fellow producer Lisa Mori, say is that they hope Anderson becomes a destination for big name talent to come on and share the other pieces to their story. As Morgan’s show has proven at a later hour, there’s value to offering more than the typical four minute sit-and-shill platform for celebrities.
What won’t be clear until September is whether the daytime audience has an appetite for such fare, but Telepictures president Hilary Estey McLoughlin is confident that Cooper is a bet worth taking. “There’s a sea change going on in daytime, and there’s never been more of an opportunity with Oprah going off of the air, Regis leaving and the soap operas widdling down to very few,” she tells THR. “There are a lot of people looking for alternatives.”
The post Winfrey-era void that she foresees the Cooper filling is one of range. “There are a lot of shows out there now that are narrowcasting and they don’t really touch on the gamut of things and that range of emotions that we think they want,” she adds, acknowledging with an honest chuckle that she’s “been waiting a long time for Oprah to go off the air.”
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