TV review: Christiane Amanpour debuts as the anchor of ABC’s ‘This Week’
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Sunday morning, Christiane Amanpour spent her first hour as the host of ABC’s ‘This Week,’ taking over from George Stephanopoulos, who has decamped to ‘Good Morning, America.’ Her guests were House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Defense Secretary Robert Gates; both interviews were bannered as ‘exclusive’ throughout, just in case you thought they might be popping over to ‘Meet the Press’ or ‘Face the Nation’ as soon as Amanpour was done with them.
There are those who watch the news business as closely as a sport, but even to many who don’t, Amanpour, who began her career at CNN in 1983 as a coffee-fetching assistant, is a familiar figure. Certainly our most famous foreign correspondent, to use the appropriately romantic term, she personifies the coverage of the Gulf and Bosnian wars; she has appeared on ‘The Gilmore Girls’ and ‘Iron Man 2’ but seems almost to be a creature of fiction herself, beautiful and exotic, globe-trotting and fearless, an old-fashioned reporter-hero but also a model for something new.
Having spent seven recent months as the eponymous host of a nightly CNN interview show, Amanpour is not completely new to this format. Still, it’s difficult to predict how she’ll fare in the world of broadcast-network news and the clubby and insular world of the Sunday morning shows, focused so tightly on Washington insiders, when her hallmark is a free-ranging internationalism.
The job of the Sunday morning anchor is more to generate news than to report it — to pull marketable sound bites from the lips of political bigwigs. The trouble is that political bigwigs can be loath to speak candidly — which is not to say they won’t speak outrageously, to some calculated and therefore predictable end — and in her debut hour Amanpour did not exactly break down the walls. Pelosi was noncommittal apart from the usual talking points and platitudes; Gates was quotable on Afghanistan but basically clarified already stated policy.
Still, within this context, there 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.
-- Robert Lloyd (twitter.com/LATimesTVLloyd)