By Marquee Blog Editors
(CNN) — In a way, Katie Couric’s decision to have Jessica Simpson be one of the first guests when her daytime talk show, “Katie,” premiered on Monday made perfect sense: Both women had something to prove.
Couric, of course, was showing that she’s ready to transition from news anchor to daytime personality and emphasizing how relatable she is to just about everyone. Simpson, on the other hand, was throwing body critics off her back by showing off her weight loss progress and touting her health philosophy.
Wearing a black, long-sleeved dress with an on-trend peplum at the waist, Simpson told Couric that she’s lost about the equivalent of a “small child” since she first began her work as a Weight Watchers spokesperson following the delivery of daughter Maxwell in May.
But the weight loss certainly didn’t come as easily as the 32-year-old star originally imagined.
“I think during pregnancy I didn’t really think about it. I thought my doctors were telling me that it was just a lot of water, and whenever my water broke, my whole entire stomach would go down,” Simpson said with a laugh. “But that did not happen. All the weight did not come out with the baby.”
Instead, Simpson’s been concentrating on her diet and setting small goals for herself that she can accomplish each week, and she said has been seeing the pounds drop off.
But, she hastened to add, she’s not working toward a “big body reveal” – and in fact opted to shoot a new Weight Watchers commercial from the neck up to make that point.
“It’s really not about the numbers – I’ve lost enough weight where I can pat myself on the back,” she told Couric. “I really have to separate myself from the world’s expectations, and really just look inside of myself and have a relationship with myself and be healthy with myself, because I want to be a phenomenal role model for my child.”
Couric and Simpson touched on motherhood – “a dream,” Simpson said – and her engagement to Eric Johnson – no, they haven’t set a date yet – while viewers questioned if this was going to be standard “Katie” fare from here on out.
The Daily Beast’s Howard Kurtz found Couric’s enthusiasm to be “infectious,” but was more hesitant about the talk show’s content.
The interview with Simpson, Kurtz said, “underscored the challenge Couric faces as an experienced journalist and masterful interviewer who nevertheless must appeal to stay-at-home moms who are more interested in anorexia than Afghanistan,” he wrote. So while the “show feels less newsy than originally advertised,” it might be a good thing, “given the importance of connecting with the 25–54 female demo.”
The Los Angeles Times was also disappointed with Couric’s lack of weighty issues (no pun intended – seriously), bluntly positing that “if Couric was the best and brightest candidate to replace Oprah, things are not looking good, America.”
And so, the Times’ Mary McNamara continued, “if you were expecting Couric to leverage her anchor experience by making her talk show even a little smarter than most, well, that’s not the direction she appears to be choosing.”
But perhaps we just all need to adjust our expectations. The New York Times points out that in these post-“Oprah” show times, a daytime host has to find “an underserved niche.” While Couric’s competitors are using inspirational stories and approachable advice to woo audiences, Couric appears to be trying to show both audience members and her star guests that she’s “Miss Relatability.”
Time magazine observed that “that’s the line Katie will have to dance on to become the Next Whoever Comes After Oprah. … Katie may not be as successful as Oprah, but she does, whatever you think of this format, seem immediately comfortable in it, cracking unguarded jokes but also owning her celebrity.”
The “core trick she attempted on her first episode – existing at once on the level of her audience and her guests,” Time concluded, will be a deciding factor in the show’s success.