After manning the helm of ABC’s “This Week” last Sunday for the second time since her August 1 debut, longtime foreign correspondent Christiane Amanpour continues to receive decidedly negative reviews.
Amanpour replaced George Stephanopoulos, who left his post at “This Week” in January for a new gig at “Good Morning America.” Since Amanpour was announced as Stephanopoulos’ permanent replacement, ABC has portrayed her as a fresh faced alternative to the Washington echochamber, a citizen of the world complete with a foreign accent and a well-inked passport.
Yet this reputed outsider is at this moment rumored to be staying with uber-Washington insiders Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn at their Georgetown mansion while she looks for a permanent residence in the city.
The new host has expressed her desire to bring a more international flare to the show. “I’m excited about having this platform to explore the issues that affect Americans,” she told TVnewser after her first show. “I want to open the window on the world to help with the understanding of all of the global challenges out there.” The show has even embraced a new tagline, more suited to its host’s strengths,“from all across our world to the heart of our nation’s capital.”
Tom Shales, Washington Post style columnist, was one of the many mainstream critics who railed on her debut August 1 performance, calling her “miscast,” “shrill,” and “showy” — descriptions some have criticized as sexist. His sharpest critique, however, was the accusation that Amanpour meant to give her respects to the Taliban during the show’s “In Memoriam” segment. “Perhaps in keeping with the newly globalized program, the commendable ‘In Memoriam’ segment ended with a tribute not to American men and women who died in combat during the preceding week but rather, said Amanpour in her narration, in remembrance of ‘all of those who died in war’ in that period,” he wrote. “Did she mean to suggest that our mourning extend to members of the Taliban?”
Viewer commentary after the first two shows that flooded message boards, Twitter, and Facebook, has been similarly negative. “I’ll have to find something else to watch on Sunday morning. I can’t stand to listen to the new host. I also want to know what happened to the ‘round table,’” wrote mlw777888 in the comment section on the show’s webpage. “The table that they have now is as lopsided as the opinions.”
Jdbradley123 on the same site pined for Jake Tapper’s return. “Amanpour is unwatchable and so is the show now. George Will looked like he could not wait to get out of there. Jake Tapper was doing a good job and now we get stuck with this? Amanpour can not be even remotely objective as she was fawning over everything Krugman was saying.”
Reaction on Twitter followed suit. “If I haven’t mentioned it before, Christiane Amanpour is a blithering idiot and a caricature of a journalist. What drivel,” posted MrsDigger.
Glenasbury, expressed the general tenor of the Twitter mood writing, “I know it’s only two weeks in, but I’m pretty sure Christiane Amanpour doesn’t cut it for me.”
Brent H. Baker, Media Research Center Vice President for Research and Publications speculated to The Daily Caller that Amanpour’s air of superiority has added to the poor reviews. “Viewer revulsion toward Amanpour is hardly surprising given her condescending attitude toward them,” he said. “In her first two shows, she’s acted like she’s deigning to explain the world to the uninformed rubes, aka Americans, watching, acting as if she’s slumming to help bring the world to the ill-informed Americans.”
Responses like these must be disappointing to Bob Iger, president and CEO of ABC parent company Walt Disney, and his wife Willow Bay, who were reportedly the drivers behind Amanpour’s hiring. Changes to the show include a new theme song (courtesy of Katie Couric’s ex-boyfriend Chris Botti), new set design (including a new “round table” which, amusingly, is no longer round) and a new show open. These upgrades come at a time when ABC has just completed one of the most substantial layoffs in network history, firing nearly a quarter of the network’s staff.
ABC spokeswoman Emily Lenzner told TheDC that, in sensitivity to some of the recent employment turmoil, the network worked to keep costs as low as possible. Chris Botti, for example, as an avid Amanpour fan, reportedly volunteered to compose and produce the new theme song, “for less than the cost of a used Prius.” (A used Prius runs around $20,000 depending on age and mileage.)
Despite the lack of expressed viewer enthusiasm, Lenzner said that ABC is so far happy with how the new show is unfolding. “We’re very pleased with how things have been going,” she wrote in an emailed statement to TheDC. “Christiane is doing a fantastic job, and we’re right where we want to be.”
Amanpour’s debut ratings were far from horrendous. Though she landed in the number three slot of total viewers (2.25 million) in her first episode — behind NBC’s “Meet the Press” (2.81 million) and CBS’ “Face the Nation” (2.37 million) — the show came in second in the key Adults 25-54 demographic, up 18% from the week before. This could very well be a function of the excitement her initial appearance generated.
But this past Sunday, Amanpour viewership took a nose dive — falling by 9% in total viewership. She tied “Face the Nation” in second place (with 2.05 million viewers), behind “Meet the Press” (2.937 million). She did, however, also again come in second place in the important 25-54 demographic behind “Meet the Press.”
The optimistic take ABC is embracing with regards to their new host has not silenced calls for Tapper’s return — who incidentally had been able to lead “This Week” to its first win in the key Adults 25-54 demographic in seven months while he hosted the show.
SaraHeartburn tweeted, “Thumbs way down on the new ABC This Week format/host/set/guests… Bring back Jake Tapper!”
ScottJW posted, “Haha. Jokes over. Can we please just bring back Jake Tapper?”
Postings on the show’s own message board also plead for his return.
“Jake Tapper was doing such a great job…why wasn’t he given the job. I’m afraid that I have to agree with what is being said here…I have always liked Amanpour…as a FOREIGN correspondent…I do not understand why the networks insist on far-left unbalanced programming when this is a CENTER RIGHT country. We are not stupid and we are center right for good reasons. I’m perfectly capable of recognizing a balanced discussion when I hear it and I didn’t hear it on Sunday,” posted an individual identified as kelwart.
“How could something so good go so wrong?” soosieq812 also posted on the “This Week” wall. “I want to hear opinions from others and not be distracted by a ‘star’. Jake Tapper was awesome – knowledgeable and understood his role.”
“Please bring Jake back, so we can have a real Roundtable,” likethesoup2 posted, accompanied by dozens of others expressing the same desire.
With signs that loyal viewers of “This Week” are already getting restless, it seems reasonable to ask, will Ms. Amanpour last?