Katie Couric's Dilemma: Should Perky Talker Copy Oprah or Barbara?

First Female Network News Anchor Now at Crossroads on Talk Show Format

Yahoo Contributor Network

Claiming she wants to try a TV show with more "wiggle room," Katie Couric finally announced she is quitting her post as anchorwoman of CBS News. The question is whether Couric will try to fill the vacuum created by the impending exit of talk show queen Oprah Winfrey or play mother duck to a flock of feisty females on a Barbara Walters' "View"-style chat-fest.

The blogosphere is buzzing with speculation on which path the cute and curious Couric will take as she approaches this next fork in the road of her TV career. Couric became famous as co-host of the "Today Show" and scored a stunning coup when CBS selected her to be the first female solo anchor of any major network news show. Among the highlights of her five-year stint as diva of the same news show headed by such journalistic giants as Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather was her infamous interview of then-VP candidate Sarah Palin in which Couric asked Palin what newspapers and magazines she read. The perplexed Palin not only had trouble recalling any publications by name, but also implied Couric thought people from Alaska still got their news by Pony Express.

In announcing her decision to step down as CBS News anchor, Couric said, "I am looking at a format that will allow me to engage in more multi-dimensional storytelling." This deliberately vague hint could mean anything from a solo talk show ala Oprah in which Couric mashes up interviews and documentary-style video to an ensemble show like that of Walters with her own campy crew of commentators.

Couric could almost guarantee her unique spin on a "View"-formatted show would garner huge ratings if she recruits bigger name co-hosts than did Barbara Walters. For instance, instead of plucking a reality TV show relic like Elisabeth Hasselbeck of "Survivor," Couric could have a daily duel with nemesis Sarah Palin, the poster girl for female conservatives. Joan Rivers would be just as opinionated as Joy Behar but would have the additional skills to critique guests' outfits and suggest possible plastic surgeries. And while it's hard to out-wow Whoopi Goldberg for humor, Wanda Sykes could give the glib Goldberg a run for her money.

If Couric opts for the Oprah route, it is doubtful her show will follow the same spiritual "Live Your Best Life" course. The ambitious anchor will likely be more hard-hitting in her questioning than Oprah and provide "Saturday Night Live" with fresh fodder for satire and the cable news shows with video snippets that will go viral.

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