Anderson Cooper’s Daytime Debut. You Can Exhale, Maury Povich

By Gail Shister 

At least he didn’t wear a black T-shirt.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper donned a stylish, white-on-blue pinstriped shirt and gray suit – no necktie – for today’s debut of his syndicated daytime talk show, ‘Anderson.’

The meta-hyped topic demanded it: The first interviews with the family of rocker Amy Winehouse since she was found dead in her London home last month at age 27.

An impressive get, no question, but Cooper went a bit overboard in the show’s open. As he peddled his bike through New York City, he asked viewers where they were when they heard that Winehouse had died.

Coming one day after the 10th anniversary of 9/11, it was an offensive question, reeking of phony gravitas. Moreover, Winehouse’s death, while tragic, hardly rose to the level of public consciousness as did the murder of John Lennon or suicide of Kurt Cobain.

Speaking of 9/11, Cooper did find a way to mention the anniversary in his closing. Reverence? Maybe, but a cynic might argue it was to give the impression to unsuspecting viewers that the show was live. It was not, and it won’t be.

Regardless, it was a strong launch for the CNN matinee idol. The packages were well-produced, some even worthy of ’60 Minutes.’ The interviews, particularly with Winehouse’s father, Mitch, were painfully evocative. (With his silver hair, Mitch could pass as Cooper’s father.)

Naturally, there were a few cringe-worthy moments: Cooper’s gratuitous reference to his brother’s suicide; his over-the-top adulation of Winehouse; his hugging of a member of the studio audience – comprised mostly of (female) Winehouse wannabes.

In his pedal-pushing open, Cooper was spot-on about one thing: “I’m not a really polished guy,” he said. “I’m not a doctor. I don’t even play one on TV.”

He’s no daytime ingénue, either, having co-hosted ‘Regis and Kelly’ a mind-numbing 32 times. Clearly, the globe-trotting, crusading news guy is not afraid to indulge his self-described “more silly and frivolous side”

Cooper was flawless when reading from the ‘prompter or asking what appeared to be pre-arranged questions. It was only when he went off script that his stop-and-start, halting delivery was heard. Truthfully, I found it endearing, in a post-modern, talk-show host kind of way.

All in all, I give the premiere a solid ‘B,’ with a bullet.

As to whether the show will impugn Cooper’s news cred, you be the judge. This week’s other guests include: The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills; outrageous galpal Kathy Griffin; and ‘Jersey Shore’s’ Snooki, with whom Cooper shares a spray-painted tanning session. (Any excuse to show off his killer bod.)

It gets serious again Wednesday, with two 24-year-old women who were abandoned as infants. As yet unscheduled: A rare interview with his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, on the suicide of her son, Carter in 1988.

Judging by ‘Anderson’s’ website, lighter, civilian fare will dominate.

Producers are currently trolling for guests for such future broadcasts as: ‘Does your pet look like Anderson?;’ ‘Are you longing for ‘the one that got away?;’ ‘Did you realize you weren’t in love anymore as you were about to walk down the aisle?’

No ‘baby daddy’ segments, Cooper promises. (You can exhale, Maury Povich.) Then again, if he doesn’t get ratings, who knows where the line will be? Or when the black T-shirt will show up.