An ounce or two of Oprah. A dash of Donahue. A ration of Regis, a cupful of Kelly and a faint essence of Ellen — mix it all up, stir in a full measure of pure, unfiltered Anderson Cooper, and you’ve got the recipe for a high-profile new daytime talk/interview show.
"I liked how the old Phil Donahue show (Donahue) used audiences," Cooper said recently when asked to describe the influences that will help shape his new syndicated daytime show, Anderson, which will première Sept. 12 on CTV, its Canadian weekday home. "(I liked) how they incorporated the audience; I think audiences today aren’t being used in shows... (except) for applause in and out of commercial breaks.
"Certainly, the broad range of what Oprah was able to cover, and the sense of belonging that she was able to create… I think that was an extraordinary thing. I look at Ellen and Regis & Kelly, and the kind of real moments that they are able to capture — I think they’re great; those are things I think (can happen) when you have a live audience and you have spontaneity and things aren’t produced to the nth degree."
That said, Cooper — a fixture in CNN’s prime-time lineup, a frequent contributor to CBS’s 60 Minutes and a semi-regular fill-in co-host of Live! with Regis & Kelly — said he’s eager to make Anderson a show unlike anything that’s existed in daytime TV before.
"There’s plenty of people I have watched over the years who I have huge respect for, and there are things I love about what they did," Cooper said when he met with TV critics last month during the U.S. networks’ semi-annual press tour in Los Angeles. "But I will say I’m not trying to emulate anybody. You don’t really want to follow in somebody else’s footsteps; you want to try to create your own path."
When he arrives in daytime — hoping, clearly, as Katie Couric is, to fill the void left by Oprah’s exit last spring — Cooper will find himself stretched as thin as any TV personality could possibly be. He has no plans to alter his news-reporting schedule; rather, he intends to build a daytime franchise while still maintaining a full prime-time presence.
"How does this cut into my news time? I don’t think it will," he said. "I have a nighttime show (Anderson Cooper 360°) on at CNN, and I’ll still be able to do that; I also work for 60 Minutes — I do six pieces a year for them, and I’ve already shot two this summer for this next year. I manage my time really well. We’re taping (Anderson) in the same building where I work at CNN in New York, so I think it’s all very doable.
"It’s going to be a lot of hard work, but I like working hard. I mean, I have been working hard for a long time now, and as long as I’m learning new things and trying new things and kind of using different parts of my brain, I find it energizing as opposed to tiring.
"Plus it’s TV, so it’s not like real work."
Cooper, 44, said his new daytime show will necessarily be more revealing about him as a person — which could prove interesting, given his high-society upbringing (he’s the son of fashion designer Gloria Vanderbilt and writer Wyatt Emory Cooper), his globetrotting career as a foreign correspondent and ongoing speculation about his sexual orientation (a topic he has steadfastly avoided discussing).
"I think it’s really the difference between night and day," he said of the more open attitude of daytime shows and hosts. "On a daytime show, you really see more sides of the host. You see more of the person’s personality. And the kind of stories we’ll cover during the day… there’s a huge variety of stories — it can be a big celebrity interview one day, a provocative social issue the next day, and it can be some fun pop-culture stuff the following day."
Cooper said he intends to take a free-wheeling approach to this new venture, pre-taping shows in New York but allowing for the possibility of live shows when breaking news demands them and segments from distant locales when his news-reporting duties take him abroad.
He wants to experiment, and he’s not afraid to make a few very public mistakes while he learns the daytime ropes.
"When you’re producing a TV show, there’s only so much you can ‘produce,’" he said. "At a certain point, the red light goes on and what happens happens, and that’s the remarkable magic of television."