Anderson Cooper Remembers Amy Winehouse

Despite a few cringe-worthy moments, the CNN anchor's new daytime talk show got off to a strong start

CNN’s Anderson Cooper launched his syndicated daytime talk show yesterday with the first interviews with the family of rocker Amy Winehouse since she was found dead in her London home in July at age 27.

Good get. Good buzz. Good timing.

In the ecologically correct opening for Anderson, the intrepid newsman peddled his bike through New York City streets and asked viewers where they were when they heard that Winehouse had died.

Bad form. Bad juju. Bad timing.

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.

Welcome to daytime, Coop, where a little hype goes a long way. And a lot of hype goes longer.

Thankfully, Cooper left his black T-shirt at home. Dressed in a stylish, white-on-blue pinstriped shirt and gray suit -– no necktie -– the CNN matinee idol pulled off an impressive debut. (In Philadelphia Anderson is seen at 9 a.m. weekdays on CBS3.)

The background pieces 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 for Cooper’s father.)

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, haulting delivery was heard. Truthfully, I found it endearing, in a post-modern, talk-show host kind of way.

Of course, 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 a member of the studio audience -– comprised mostly of (female) Winehouse wannabes.

In his pedal-pushing opening, Cooper was spot-on about one thing: “I’m not a really polished guy,” he said.

He’s no daytime ingénue, either, having co-hosted Regis and Kelly a mind-numbing 32 times. (Ironically, Anderson runs opposite Regis and Kelly on 6abc.) Clearly, the globe-trotting newsman is not afraid to indulge his self-described “more silly and frivolous side.”

Bottom line: The premiere gets a solid ‘B,’ with a bullet.

As to whether the show will impugn Cooper’s news cred, his 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?”

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.)

Naturally, it won’t all be fun and games. Tomorrow’s show features 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.

The first test will come when the next big story breaks. Cooper, who never met a war/natural disaster/riot he didn’t like, will take off in a New York minute, leaving his producers to air already-produced shows in the can.

As he reports live for CNN from some world hot spot, Cooper might ‘simultaneously’ host “Can you survive without being plugged in?”

He knows the answer. The question is whether he can live with it.