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September 11, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Katie Couric seemed to send out a message on her very first afternoon talk show: don’t expect any heavy lifting this time around. Although she once remarked that her tombstone ought to read “Perky No More,” Couric appeared to be as perky as she ever was on the Today show, no longer attempting to affect the gravitas often required of her when she anchored the CBS Evening News. Critics took notice. Verne Gay, Newsday‘s TV critic, called Couric’s talk show “cheerily and almost cheesily down-market.” Gay then asked, “Is Jessica Simpson the biggest ‘get’ a daytime talk show hosted by a veteran newswoman who once anchored the CBS Evening News can land?” He then answered: “Probably — which makes you wonder, or weep, for the future of this new venture.” Virtually every critic remarked that the segment with Simpson looked like an infomercial for Weight Watchers. (It even included an appearance by a Weight Watchers’ group leader.) Couric asked not a single question to challenge the diet company’s modus operandi. “No one would fault Couric for not asking more probing questions of someone like Simpson,” David Wiegand wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle. “Nothing against the singer, but it’s not quite like asking Sarah Palin what newspapers she reads every day.” But even when it came to interviewing her next guest, Sheryl Crow, who was once married to Lance Armstrong, Couric appeared all sweetness. “Audience members who were waiting for Couric to ask Crow if she believed Armstrong used steroids or not were left disappointed. The question remained unasked,” Wiegand observed. David Hinkley in the New York Daily News remarked that Couric “was friendly, gentle and warm. … She did everything but paint her toenails and serve s’mores. What she didn’t do was provide a very lively show, which was perplexing for a first day.” But Lisa De Moraes in the Washington Post thought she looked “surprisingly nervous for someone who was the queen of morning infotainment TV for 15 years.” Mary McNamara, the TV critic for the Los Angeles Times, noted that at the beginning of the show Couric promised that she would be talking to her guests about things “that mattered.” Concluded McNamara: “We do want to talk about things that matter, and even in the afternoon, that does not include Jessica Simpson’s new diet.” On the other hand, Alessandra Stanley in the New York Times suggested that the first show was likely focused on presenting Couric as “Miss Relatability.” She noted that a promotional spot for the show “looks like the kind of campaign video that tries to frame Mitt Romney as an average Joe.” Initial ratings for the show indicated that the strategy paid off. She scored the highest numbers for a daytime premiere since Dr. Phil debuted in September 2002 and outdrew the new talk shows hosted by Steve Harvey, Jeff Probst and Ricki Lake by at least 2-1.