CNN's "New Day" anchors promised Monday to work out the show's kinks quickly, but it didn't seem to have any.
The 6 a.m. show made no bones about trying to be the newsiest morning program on television — or its willingness to throw in funny animals and Nancy Grace for comic relief. The animals felt like one of the less damaging concessions to keeping it light. Grace's comedy, as always, was unintentional.
The show, led by anchors Chris Cuomo and Kate Bolduan and news reader Michaela Pereira, started seriously with a voice-of-God introduction. (It was actually James Earl Jones, but it's hard to tell them apart.) It was followed by 12 minutes of hard news: daunting polls for President Obama, allegations of foreign and domestic spying, and an Iranian election.
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Then there was funny video of a girl chasing a bear though her neighborhood. And, finally, some laughs.
There were a surprising number of wacky animal videos Monday: A boy swam with a whale shark. A deer attacked a man. A fish escaped when Cuomo, Bolduan and Pereira went out on a get-to-know-you fishing trip. The animals might seem an odd fit in a show so filled with serious stories, but executive producer Jim Murphy seems to believe — probably correctly — that after years of clicking from real news to kitten videos, we can handle the transition without too much cognitive dissonance. And the animals provided a controversy-free break from all the thinking.
If only the same were true of Grace. After all the crisply delivered news, it was jarring to watch her drop in with her guilty-until-proven innocent routine, making even the most mundane things sound insidious. (At one point she referred to a missing child's natural father as "the biodad.")
But she was a rare bioflaw in a steady, fast-moving show. Cuomo, Bolduan and Pereira all seemed relatable, like people you wouldn't mind sharing a coffee with first thing in the morning. Cuomo, in particular, has a gift for asking the questions viewers might ask themselves.
Talking to Christiane Amanpour about the election of a supposedly more moderate president of Iran, he asked if it was a case of the new boss being the same as the old boss.
"In a word, no," she replied.
But Pereira may be the best part of the new show. Joining CNN from Los Angeles' KTLA, she projects cool while also seeming down to earth. Talking about a botched answer from Miss Utah in the Miss USA pageant, she opted not to mock her: "We live in a huge glass house," she said.
Actually, the set is a brick house. A gorgeous one. The polished wood floors and brick walls set a warm, comfortable tone that also feels solid, just like a morning show should.
Yes, the occasional animal may slip in — along with an occasionally overheated guest. But "New Day" seems to have a solid foundation.