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Stephanopoulos should lighten up on 'GMA'

George Stephanopoulos, second from left, and Juju Chang,

George Stephanopoulos, second from left, and Juju Chang, left, will be joining Robin Roberts and Sam Champion as the new anchor team of "Good Morning America" starting Monday, Dec. 14, 2009. Photo Credit: AP Photo/Donna Svennevik

 

WHAT'S NEW: With Diane Sawyer now squared away at 6:30 p.m., George Stephanopoulos is running the show, with Robin Roberts.

WHO'S GEORGE?: Former adviser and communications czar to Bill Clinton, and since 2002, anchor of venerable ABC Sunday program "This Week" (once graced by David Brinkley). Married to Alexandra "Ali" Wentworth, TV star ("Head Case") and currently in "It's Complicated." Father of two daughters.

MY SAY: Let's start with the good news about George, a week and a half into his "GMA" tenure. He's a smart, facile broadcaster and someone who projects solid and serious intentions. He has - to use the word that serious broadcasters so dearly love - gravitas. Now the not-so-good: He's not cut out for weekday morning TV, or not yet anyway. He's an austere, somewhat rarefied personality - a slightly chilled draft of air in the morning, when most viewers are looking for a warm, embracing breeze. For "Today" show comparisons, he falls on the Bryant Gumbel side of the ledger as opposed to the Matt Lauer. You'll note that a mantle of morning frost never hurt Gumbel arguably the best morning show host in history - but he also had a supporting cast to thaw him out, and when he didn't . . . Stephanopoulos is not a Gumbel-size talent, but someone who in his still-limited broadcasting career has done one thing very well - interview policy-makers on Sunday morning. That works just fine for about five minutes per two-hour edition. But the other 115 minutes . . . ?

FREE ADVICE: Loosen up. Laugh. Enjoy yourself, or make a reasonable facsimile of someone enjoying himself. Chat aimlessly with Roberts about anything under the sun; make her feel comfortable. Do fluff, lots of it, and not just the John McCain / Meryl Streep interviews. (Give those to Robin, too.) Get out on the street. Find out what the real people are like. Get on the phone, and fight hard for interviews - big interviews and scoops that'll make Matt weep when you get them. (See? This isn't so hard.)

BOTTOM LINE: A glorious future awaits George. I'm just not yet sure it'll be as host of "GMA."

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