Katie Couric’s Daytime Talk Debut Was Basically a Weight Watchers Infomercial

The debut of Katie: all gimmick, no gravitas.

Apostles of Weight Watchers no doubt were thrilled with the debut of Katie Couric’s syndicated talk show. The rest of us, not so much.

The long-awaited launch of Katie yesterday looked and sounded like a live infomercial. To wit, the first three segments were devoted almost exclusively to guest Jessica Simpson’s post-partum weight loss—thanks to Weight Watchers, of course.

There were so many low-rent plugs, I kept waiting for the 800 number and my free Ginsu knife.

First, there was Simpson gushing about her new role as a Weight Watchers poster girl. Then a sneak preview of her Weight Watchers ad. Then a full segment joined by her Weight Watchers coach. Then a free, two-week Weight Watchers membership, via Katie’s website.

Thirty minutes later, I was reeling from estrogen-induced boredom. With more than a year to prepare, Couric and her producers ended up going with the most trite, predictable “women’s topic”—weight loss—for the show’s premiere. Please.

Jessica Simpson was no Sarah Palin, but Couric appeared to revel in the absence of heavy lifting. After her hellish tenure as anchor of CBS Evening News, Katie must have felt like a fabulous, all-expenses-paid vacation. Hey, if Anderson Cooper can do it, why not Couric?

“Gravitas” is highly overrated. Couric didn’t have it at Today, and she was beloved by millions for 15 years. She didn’t have it at CBS, and she walked away after five years with $75 million. On Katie, she doesn’t need gravitas. She’s the boss. A very rich boss.

As has become the fashion, Katie opened with a cutesy taped bit. This was more than a little derivative, given that Couric did the same thing for her guest-hosting stint on Good Morning America in April.

She wakes up from a weird dream and proceeds to tell it to a mystery person in the other twin bed. (An homage to I Love Lucy, perhaps?) “I dreamed I left Today to anchor the evening news, and I did it for five years, and then I dreamed I was going to be hosting my own daytime talk show!”

Peeling back the covers, a jammies-clad Matt Lauer exclaims: “That wasn’t a dream, and the talk show starts right now!” Cue hilarity.

Thankfully, the guest in the second half was Sheryl Crow, who composed Katie’s kicky theme song and is Couric’s good friend. Unlike Simpson, Crow actually had a few interesting things to say.

The studio audience was stacked with family and friends—Couric’s two daughters, her mom, her junior-high cheerleading buds. The whole audience seemed to be female. Most were dressed in reds and blues, matching Couric’s frock and the show’s pastel set. (Coincidence? I think not.)

In a refreshing bit of candor, Couric matter-of-factly told the audience she had turned 55 this year. (I’m seeing future episodes about hot flashes.) She also informed us that she had remembered to “pee” before the show, in accordance to a fan’s tweet. Thanks for sharing.

Today’s guest is multiple amputee Aimee Copeland, a graduate student who survived a rare form of flesh-eating bacteria, with post-Seal supermodel Heidi Klum set for tomorrow. Jennifer Lopez and Wendy Williams are in the wings.

With syndicated shows hosted by Survivor’s Jeff Probst, standup Steve Harvey and former talker Ricki Lake also having debuted yesterday, not to mention the return of Ellen DeGeneres and Cooper, the daytime landscape will quickly become overpopulated. The herd must be culled.

My money is on Couric. She and executive producer Jeff Zucker, her former Today boss, are clearly in their comfort zones here, and it shows. Over time, Couric will find her footing, as well as her audience. It won’t be Ellen-size, but it will ensure Katie’s survival.

And if Couric has shown us anything over the decades, it’s that she is a survivor.