One TV critic’s “panache and briskness” is another’s “shrill and showy.” Some of the very things that the New York Times’s Alessandra Stanley finds appealing and promising about This Week’s new host, Christiane Amanpour, appear to alarm and upset the Washington Post’s Tom Shales.
That Amanpour is not of Washington? A potential positive, says Stanley:
Ms. Amanpour is not an election expert and hasn’t spent her life covering Washington politics, but she is smarter than many of those who have, with a range of international experience that is hard to match. More important, she has panache and a no-nonsense briskness.
[F]or viewers Ms. Amanpour’s outsider status comes at an opportune time. The country is sick of its elected officials, and it has never been all that keen on the Washington press corps. If Ms. Amanpour can bring some of the nerve and authority she had covering foreign affairs to a program that has until now had a clubby, old-boy focus on domestic news, she will certainly stand out. She may even be good.
Possibly ruinous, according to Shales:
Amanpour announced her intention to “open a window on the world” now that she runs This Week, but the show was hardly a haven for isolationists, and refashioning it to take advantage of Amanpour’s specialty could, in a word, ruin it…
[interim host Jake]Tapper, in fact, grew quickly and comfortably into the role of This Week host and became a kind of “favorite son” in campaigns by fans on Facebook and the Internet generally — even as the clock ticked his interim tenure away and the Grand Duchess Amanpour approached on her royal barge from overseas. Is this a classic case of fixing that which wasn’t broken?
[T]he adept and likable Tapper stood a good chance of steering This Week into the kind of dominance that Meet the Press has so long enjoyed. And it didn’t require any globe-trotting Fancy-Pants to do it.
And it’s not just the new host. Shales is also troubled by the new table (“oddly enough, no longer round, having been scrapped for one shaped like a lumpy old lima bean.”) But here’s the part where Shales’s it’s all so new and foreign and generally unlike the likable Tapper lament loses whatever credibility it may have had:
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. Did she mean to suggest that our mourning extend to members of the Taliban?
What did Shales “mean to suggest” here?
UPDATE: From Robert Lloyd’s review at the LA Times:
[T]here is something fresh about her. She’s a star, but naturally or tactically, not an insider. She lacks the familiarity that characterizes many of her colleagues, who whatever their differences project a chummy attitude of being in the same game — whether the game of politics or the game of maintaining a career talking about them. Her hallmark is rather an almost inelegant, even partisan urgency, with a tendency to personalize politics — that is, to make it about people — born possibly from all the years she has spent in distressed places under fire. “Is America going to abandon the women of Afghanistan, the people of Afghanistan?” she asked Pelosi.
She speaks loudly and intently, as if she has not lost the habit of yelling over heavy artillery and wants to get her questions out before the bombs get too close. This can make her sound pushy at times, and she will sometimes insist on a point long after it’s clear that her interlocutor will not respond in any meaningful way. But one would say it’s because she cares.
Cares… about getting answers to her questions? How “fresh.”
Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.