Let me just say that I have a lot of respect for Virginia Heffernan, the TV writer for the New York Times. I think she’s a good writer, and I like her blog Screens as well — but the piece she just wrote about Amanda Congdon’s debut on ABC News is, well… really out there. I watched Amanda’s first show, and I found it sort of grating in the same way Rocketboom was — she overdid the perkiness just a tad, and the hair-flipping and the wide-eyed innocence thing.
And the items she did were, well, underwhelming. For a debut, I would think she could have done a little better than a bit about Tori Spelling’s garage sale and a company that makes fake blood — although she did take a shot at ABC for having a pop-up video player instead of embedded video (you can’t fast forward or rewind either, which is dumb). But it was pretty gee whiz, and kind of, well… dumb.
But that’s not what Virginia saw. She says:
Like a teenager, she seems exaggeratedly puzzled by whateverâ€™s at hand; sheâ€™s too cool for almost everything, and good for her. To achieve this effect, she often appeals to the camera â€” the audience? God? â€” to find out whatâ€™s going on.
Slim, swan-necked, with the upright bearing of a dancer or cadet, she doesnâ€™t exactly lean in for intimacy with the viewer. Sheâ€™s not relatable. She seems a touch abstemious.
In case you’re wondering, “abstemious” means to use temperance or moderation. In any case, Virginia then goes on to compare Amanda’s engagement — which she indicates by saying things like “That was weird” — with Walter Cronkite of all people. She even says that a shrug by Amanda during a report on New Orleans was “an editorial in itself.” I’m not making this up.
To tell you the honest truth, I thought for a second that maybe Virginia’s piece was an elaborate Onion-style parody. But I don’t think it was. My friend Joey deVilla from Global Nerdy appears to be similarly nonplussed. And TDavid doesn’t think much of it either (great line about Amanda’s departure being “like Suzanne Somers leaving Three’s Company in season three).
Andrew Baron says on his blog that Amanda Across America and the ABC and HBO deals were either completely or in large part a result of work he did at Rocketboom before Amanda left (hat tip to Cory Bergman at Lost Remote for the link). Oh yes, and the inimitable Loren Feldman weighs in on Amanda’s debut — he was so underwhelmed he couldn’t even be bothered to get out of bed to tape his video review.