As her mixed tenure as the anchor of CBS’s evening news comes to a close, Katie Couric’s said to be considering launching a syndicated talk show. That’s a tough, crowded market, and as the struggle of Oprah’s OWN network to find a dedicated audience suggests, there’s not enough pent-up demand for anyone to jump into the arena and succeed. But there’s an alternative out there that would be a great match for her skills — and for another network’s needs.
When CNN signed Piers Morgan to a multi-year deal last fall, he was expected to bring a British tabloid pop to Larry King’s sclerotic interview slot. That hasn’t exactly happened: he’s boosted ratings some, but his numbers are still relatively low. He’s responded touchily to mixed reviews. And it’s arguable that he’s overextended — his contract negotiations with CNN were so complicated because he wanted to be able to keep working on America’s Got Talent and a British TV network. It would be a gamble, but maybe a smart one, for CNN to consider cutting Morgan and replacing him with Couric, who is available, not overemployed, and most importantly, a killer interviewer with a record of great gets. Obviously, her annihilation of Sarah Palin during the 2008 campaign is the interview that most shapes how people think of her — and it showed how much better she is face-to-face with a guest than looking out across an anchor’s desk:
Similarly, her sit-down with Lil Wayne, probably the best middle-aged white lady interview of a rapper ever, is further proof of why she’s so good at her job:
Obviously why Weezy smokes a lot of pot isn’t as important as why Palin thought proximity to Russia made her a foreign policy expert, but Couric doesn’t let either one of them off the hook, she just does it in different ways. With Palin, she’s steely because she’s ferreting out high-stakes nonsense. With Wayne, both parties to the interview knew that the exchange was patently ridiculous, so she could side-eye him, let himself ramble on about migraines, and know that everyone gets the point. That ability to do high and low, to rely on her credibility in serious interviews, and to lend it out in less important ones, would make her great in King’s old slot. I doubt CNN will actually dump Morgan, but I’d like to see Couric find a match for her skills in a historically male slot as she tried to do at CBS, rather than retreating to a daytime talker.