Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Anderson Interview Circa 2003

Thought I'd put up this interview today. Makes me kinda wistful for the old 360, but I guess it's long gone and not coming back. Don't get me wrong I love the current 360, but I wish he'd inject a bit more humor into it.

Tongue in Cheek, Hip On Camera

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After devoting a good chunk of his CNN talk show to the Michael Jackson circus, Anderson Cooper told viewers to "say goodbye" to media coverage of such important subjects as Medicare and stock-market reform. "We'll miss you," he joked.

Not that Cooper is exempting himself from his tongue-in-cheek indictment of cable news excess. "We do things with a wink and a nod," he explains. "If you don't include yourself in the critique, you have no business doing it."

As CNN's youngest prime-time host, the 36-year-old Cooper is being positioned as the hip face of the network -- despite his protestation that he's not particularly cool and is, in fact, "kind of boring." But who else would report on an MTV reality show starring ex-teen sensation Jessica Simpson and her husband, calling them "pretty, ridiculously rich and comprehensively clueless"? Or do a week-long series on "Infidelity in America"?

CNN may be hoping that some of Cooper's celebrity dust rubs off. He is, after all, the son of Gloria Vanderbilt (who made a pre-Thanksgiving appearance on his show), as well as one of People magazine's sexiest men of 2002.

So far, he hasn't brought any ratings magic. "Anderson Cooper 360" has averaged 474,000 viewers in recent weeks. That's down 28 percent from CNN programming a year ago and well behind the 1.3 million viewers for Fox News's Shepard Smith, though ahead of MSNBC's Chris Matthews. But CNN executives point to a 15 percent rise in the coveted 18-to-49 age group.
Cooper calls the three-month-old venture "a show that can go from what's going on in Baghdad to some ridiculous pop culture item." He says he takes hard news seriously but tries to bring "a sense of irony" to lighter segments, particularly a closing commentary called the "Nth Degree."

Citing a poll in which nearly two-thirds of Americans think they'll get into heaven, he deduced that "heaven has an acceptance rate of 64 percent. That means it's easier to get into heaven than it is to, say, Harvard or the Augusta National Golf Course."

After Pat Robertson, no fan of the State Department, said he'd like to "get a nuclear device inside Foggy Bottom" and "blow that thing up," Cooper observed: "In fairness to Robertson, he didn't specifically say he wanted to kill anybody, although nuclear bombs are well known for at least creating widespread inconvenience."

Little wonder, then, that CNN picked Cooper to moderate last month's "Rock the Vote" presidential debate, which he began by playing back many of the candidates' sound bites to try to deter them from canned rhetoric. "I was really pleased with it," he says of the debate, while conceding it was "unfortunate" that a CNN producer planted the much-ridiculed "Macs or PCs?" question with a college student.

Some CNN staffers were wary when the prematurely gray journalist was hired in 2001, because he had just finished hosting an ABC reality show called "The Mole," featuring 10 strangers and one secret saboteur. ABC tapped him from its overnight news show, said the New York Times, "for fairly obvious reasons: he is on the young side and good looking (a draw to those young women so attractive to advertisers)." Cooper insists, rather half-heartedly, that he doesn't regret his "Mole" period and that it was "a fun experience."

Clearly, his upbringing as the son of a famous fashion designer was out of the ordinary. The Times once ran a picture of him shaking hands with Charlie Chaplin, one of his mom's pals. But he says he learned early on that those who have "fame and fortune" are "just as unhappy and screwed up as everyone else."

First he paid some serious dues. In 1991, Cooper quit as a fact-checker for the school video service Channel One and, armed only with a video camera, traveled to such strife-torn areas as Burma, Rwanda and Somalia. Channel One started using his reports.

"I was terrified," he says, and sometimes slept on roofs because the major networks had booked the available hotel rooms. But "for me, it was always about going to far-off places and telling people's stories that weren't being told."

Cooper recently revisited his past in a painful way, writing in Details magazine about the death of his older brother, Carter, who in 1988 leaped from the balcony of his mother's penthouse apartment.

"I'd sort of been writing it in my head for some time," he says. "It was the notion of linking the events surrounding my brother's suicide and the things I learned from being in a combat environment. It was not pleasant."

Perhaps Cooper's subversive streak comes from his privileged background and the resentment he felt toward big-time television honchos when he was "eating network dust" during his Africa travels.

"I very much do not want to become what I used to make fun of," he says. "The newscaster on 'The Simpsons' sadly is not that far off from what you see out there."

Here's hoping he's back from vacation today but with this description from the 360 website, I'm not so sure?? "Shunned by their church, community and society. But polygamists say they haven't lost their way. Pride in polygamy. "

Thanks to Xtina for the picture

1 comment:

Quitty said...

I hope he is on tonight too. Maybe since he was on vacation for a week his snark came back. Polygamy again?! Oh well...I guess it beats two hours of the Jon Benet Ramsey case.