Jake Tapper's debut as a CNN anchor arrived at 4pm ET today with the premiere of "The Lead with Jake Tapper." After letting us know his colorful new home still had that "new set smell," Tapper got right down to business with a segment on Mayor Bloomberg's latest fascist push. Hizzoner will now tell store owners they can no longer display cigarettes out in the open.
From there the surprisingly relaxed host moved things along quickly with segments that included the Cypress bank run, how Carnival Cruise Lines is getting a free ride from U.S. taxpayers, Zimbabwe president (and accused mass-murderer) Robert Mugabe's trip to Italy, the latest from Syria, and so on. Straight news stories were frequently interrupted by lighter fare covering popular culture (weekend box office, an interview with Stephen Colbert).
What was most notable (and welcome) is that a full 45 minutes passed before "The Lead" covered politics. This might have made provincial, DC media-types impatient, but I found it refreshing. What a relief to actually learn about what's happening in 99.99995% of the world before jumping into the same political story everyone's been already covering all day (the GOP's attempt to rebrand itself).
In a Twitter news-cycle, "The Lead" seems determined to be on top of what's happening as it is airs, which is something it accomplished with just-released polls and touching on a number of stories that hadn't already been beat to death.
Tapper closed the show with sports.
The contrast between "The Lead" and the old CNN was felt as soon as Tapper signed off and Wolf Blitzer lumbered into "The Situation Room" leading with -- you guessed it --- the GOP study on how to fix itself; that same tired old story that's been running non-stop for over eight hours already. Wolf then jumped into the non-troversy about "The Bible" supposedly casting an Obama lookalike as Satanzzzzzzzzzzzz...
It's too early to properly review "The Lead," and DC provincials are likely to grumble overt the lack of politics. But as far as first impressions go, CNN made a great one.
From a production standpoint, "The Lead" was remarkably polished for a debut. Tapper's obviously got a very talented crew backing him up.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC