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November 23, 2014

George Stephanopoulos Should Replace Diane Sawyer on 'Good Morning America'

by Gary Susman, posted Oct 26th 2009 4:00PM
Diane Sawyer Good Morning AmericaIt's less than three months until Diane Sawyer replaces the retiring Charlie Gibson as the anchor of ABC's 'World News,' and yet there's no word on a successor for Sawyer as the star of ABC News' cash cow, 'Good Morning America.'

You'd think the network would be auditioning newswomen for the post, but according to the Los Angeles Times, the network wants a man -- someone who, along with current 'GMA' co-host Robin Roberts, would restore the Ma-and-Pa dynamic that's been traditional for eons on network morning news shows. ABC is also looking to hire from within, the Times reports.Diane Sawyer Good Morning AmericaIt's less than three months until Diane Sawyer replaces the retiring Charlie Gibson as the anchor of ABC's 'World News,' and yet there's no word on a successor for Sawyer as the star of ABC News' cash cow, 'Good Morning America.'

You'd think the network would be auditioning newswomen for the post, but according to the Los Angeles Times, the network wants a man -- someone who, along with current 'GMA' co-host Robin Roberts, would restore the Ma-and-Pa dynamic that's been traditional for eons on network morning news shows. ABC is also looking to hire from within, the Times reports.

George StephanopoulosLast week, 'GMA' news anchor Chris Cuomo and 'This Week' anchor George Stephanopoulos got to test-drive Sawyer's chair. In general, we'd give the edge to Stephanopoulos; he tends to be less stiff (and easier on the eyes) than Cuomo. Other insiders up for the post, according to the Times, are 'World News Saturday' anchor David Muir and 'GMA Weekend' co-host Bill Weir, but neither is anywhere near as familiar to viewers as Stephanopoulos or Cuomo.

Unfortunately for ABC, stars of the stature of Gibson (Sawyer's longtime co-host until he stepped up to the nighttime anchor job in 2006) or Matt Lauer (on 'GMA''s chief rival, 'Today' on NBC) are rare. The proliferation of news shows on network and cable has fragmented the audience and devalued the prestige of the anchor chair. Plus, ABC's own star system (which created the likes of Sawyer, Gibson, Barbara Walters, Ted Koppel and Peter Jennings) focused more on competition among its A-listers than cultivation of up-and-coming talent.

So that leaves few men tall enough to fill Sawyer's high heels. But we'll suggest a few names who should be on the list ... and a few who shouldn't:

Bob Woodruff: He's got the serious-news chops, he's still young-ish, he's good-looking, and he has built-in audience sympathy after the horrible ordeal of his injury in Iraq and his painstaking recuperation. Plus, he got to be the evening news co-anchor (with Elizabeth Vargas) for only one month before his injury forced the network to replace him with Gibson. After all he's been through, doesn't ABC owe him?

Jake TapperJake Tapper: He's young, he's glib, he's got a huge Internet following. As ABC News' senior White House correspondent, he's an insular creature of the D.C. beltway, but he's not so wonky that he can't handle the pop culture side of the job as well; he's interviewed such TV folk as Sarah Silverman, Nicollette Sheridan and 'South Park''s Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

Elizabeth Vargas: Who (besides ABC News brass) says 'GMA' has to have a male-female pairing, anyway? Why not an all-woman team? After all, the audience, which is mostly women anyway, has had three years to get used to the idea. That would be the easiest way to stand out from the competition on CBS and NBC. Vargas, whose first job at ABC was as news reader on 'GMA,' has the hard and soft news credentials to do the job. Plus, the pregnant Vargas was unceremoniously ousted from the evening news co-anchor chair after five months so that Gibson could run the show solo; ABC owes her some payback.

Shepherd SmithShepard Smith: What if ABC wanted to look outside its own newsroom for talent? Anderson Cooper would be an obvious choice, but CNN has him locked into a long-term contract. Smith, however, is an evening news star at Fox News, and he may not be too happy there, given his occasional tendency to wander off the channel's ideological reservation.

And here's some names ABC should avoid:

Martin Bashir: He's been co-anchoring 'Nightline' since 2005, and he's certainly famous for his pop-cultural interviews. But he's a Brit, and the show's called 'Good Morning America.' Plus, who can look at him without thinking of Michael Jackson and the boy the singer was charged with molesting?

George Will: He's got the same Sunday morning political news credentials as his 'This Week' colleague Stephanopoulos, but he's not nearly as cute. His starchy, know-it-all persona would not play well on happy-talk morning TV. And if they ever let him interview a baseball player, he'd wax so rhapsodic that the poor slugger would never get a word in edgewise.

Tom BergeronTom Bergeron: It wouldn't be unprecedented for ABC to hire an entertainer for this gig; the show's inaugural anchor was actor David Hartman, and he helped make 'GMA' a top-rated morning news show for most of his 11 years there. Bergeron has hosted daytime chat shows on other networks, but c'mon ... do you really want the 'America's Funniest Home Videos' guy interviewing world leaders, much less bantering with them in puns as he does on 'Dancing With the Stars'?

Chris Harrison: See Tom Bergeron, above. Plus, the 'Bachelor' host would describe every White House interview as "the most shocking Rose Garden ceremony EVER!"

Elisabeth Hasselbeck: Please, God, no.


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