‘Good Afternoon America:’ Lots of Fun, Little News

By Merrill Knox 

With just three minutes left on Wednesday’s “Good Afternoon America,” Lara Spencer and Josh Elliott are looking for a soccer ball.

The crew checks the studio. The audience checks their bags. Someone produces a volleyball, which Elliott, a huge soccer fan, dismisses. The commercial break ends, and Spencer and Elliott’s goodbyes go off without a hitch, soccer ball or not.

It was a much smoother ending for the third outing of the limited run show than it was for the first, a sign that the “GAA” team is quickly finding a rhythm.

“I feel pretty happy. It’s got a great spirit,” executive producer James Goldston told TVNewser after Wednesday’s show. “These things, they take time to bed in. But we’re here for nine weeks, and we’re going to have fun with it.”

One major difference between “Good Morning America” and its afternoon counterpart is the studio audience: about 100 people, the majority of them female. Throughout the show, the group is encouraged to cheer if they like something and boo if they don’t, which Elliott told TVNewser contributes to the fresher, more energetic feel that “GAA” is going for.

“The audience is a phenomenal drug,” he said.

Another difference is the content, which is stripped of any news found on “GMA.” Wednesday’s show included segments on summer fashion, the social acceptability of dating a friend’s ex and a reality television round-up with former “Real Housewives” star Jill Zarin.

“I think this is the world that we live in,” Elliott said. “The 24-hour news cycle sort of demands, arguably, someone who can probably function in it at various parts of the day.”

The show will continue live for the next few weeks. The plan is to shift to a pre-taped show allowing Elliott and Spencer a shorter workday and the ability to edit around any rough edges. Elliott, despite the exhaustion, lingered in the studio long after the show was over, posing for pictures and chatting with what was left of the audience.

Goldston called the early ratings “encouraging.” Monday’s show drew 1.923M total viewers, and Tuesday’s show improved to 2.044M. The hope is that the afternoon show can capitalize on the recent success of “GMA,” which is in a position to win in both Total Viewers and younger viewers this week.

“We’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing,” he said. “What we’re doing is working just fine.”