America’s Sweetheart

9 Things We Learned About Katie Couric

Katie Couric discusses about her new talk show, Katie. Maria Elena Fernandez reports.

Rick Rowell / ABC

Katie Couric has been working in television for 33 years. Once you get over that, you might want to know—in case your cave doesn’t have Internet—that her new talk show, Katie, premieres on ABC on Sept. 10.

A panelist at the Television Critics Association’s semi-annual press tour in Beverly Hills on Thursday, Couric unveiled promotional footage from her new show—including the secrets behind the show’s special theme song (more on that later). The show will be taped live in front of a studio audience and will usually cover one topic per episode, though sometimes an episode will feature more than one topic. She revealed two recurring features: “Women Who Should Be Famous,” which will tell the tales of extraordinary women who should get more credit than they do; and “Yolo,” short for “You Only Live Once” a segment in which Couric will do some of the things she’s always wanted to do, like drive a race car.

Looking fit in a tailored red sleeveless dress, Couric came across as energetic, smart, and charming—you know, the usual Couric way. But she did reveal some new information, which is presented here in no particular order in her words:

1. The Katie Song: “The theme song is performed by Sheryl Crow [who also wrote it]. We met in Nashville a few months ago and talked about what this show is about and the sensibility of the show and what we wanted to convey. Sheryl is someone who I admire a great deal and has experienced a lot in her life and is enormously talented.”

2. Bucket List: “I'd like to star on a Broadway musical but I don’t think that’s gonna happen. When I auditioned for my high school musical, Carnival, they cast me as a deaf-mute. That’s a true story. Very humiliating. So I went to my drama teacher and objected. So he, actually, then gave me the role of a dancing bear.”

3. Toughest Career Moment: “When I was criticized a lot doing the CBS News early on, it was difficult because some of the criticism seemed so shallow. Somebody saying they didn’t like the way I was holding my hands doing the news. Or they didn’t like the white jacket I wore after Labor Day, God forbid. I always say it was winter white, it was tropical weight wool, and it was Armani, people! But you know I think it was hard because it was sort of hard for me to understand some of the vitriol that was unleashed and sent my way. But I think it was also a great character-building experience for me. And it taught me to focus on the work and to continue doing the very best job I could. And as a result I’m very proud of the work I did during my five years at CBS.”

4. Show Topics: “I’ve experienced a lot of things in my own life that I think we’ll be talking about. Having gone through losing a spouse at an early age and having to learn all about cancer; having to navigate dating in your 40s and 50s. Right now, I’m caring for my mother who is 89 after my dad passed away last summer. So I feel like a lot of the things I’m going through in my life are relatable. So I’ve been there. But I also just care a lot about a lot of different things and a lot of different people who have been through different things that I may not have experienced in my life.”

5. Her Support of the Soaps: “I think that obviously soap operas have a huge and loyal following. If you have any question about that, you should just follow me on Twitter. I hear from a lot of those folks. I think they fill a need for a lot of people and so I think they can peacefully coexist with a lot of the other offerings on daytime television. I used to watch some soap operas when I used to work nights at WRC in Washington when I was a local news reporter on the night beat. They’ve been around a long time. They’re an institution and they’re important to a lot of people.”

6. Ann Curry: “I wasn’t on the inside of that so it’s hard for me to pass judgment. But I think, for whatever reason, the sense was that it wasn’t clicking and I think Ann has done an incredible job reporting and traveling around the world and bringing some of these far-off stories that aren’t covered quite enough for the American public. So I think she’ll go on to do great things. My heart was breaking for her that morning when she was close to tears and I think when she even shed a tear. I don’t like to see somebody disappointed and I think when you have that happen on a public stage, it’s really hard to be that person and it’s very hard to watch. I really am confident that she will go on and do great things and land on her feet. I was happy to see her reporting from Aurora, Colorado, and doing a great job on the Dateline special.”

7. Possible Show Guests: “I have invited both candidates and their wives and anyone else in their families they’d like to bring. And I have invited Sarah Palin to come on the show as well.” (The former governor of Alaska has not responded yet).

8. Bucket List Part 2: “I would like to go out with George Clooney if you can arrange that.”

9. Why a Talk Show: “I had 15 wonderful years on Today, which were some of the happiest years of my professional life and really had a terrific time doing that show. But I don’t know if Thomas Wolfe is right and you can’t go home again. But I feel as though that’s something that I’m proud of but I’m moving forward. I’m one of those people that likes new challenges. I’m one of those people who is more than willing to put myself out there and try something new. And I think that this was an exciting opportunity because, creatively, to build something from scratch, to get a blank canvas and to actually shape a program that tackles some of the things you think are important, that you think people want to know more about, that they’re hungry for more information and a richer experience than getting headlines or listening to a three-minute interview. To not have to play beat the clock and to roll up my sleeves and let a conversation breathe and have intelligence and humanity. I thought this would be an opportunity to do that and that’s why I wanted to dive into this genre. I feel very comfortable on live television. I feel very comfortable on television in general. I hope that people will appreciate a smart conversation. The marketing department of ABC came up with ‘Smart with Heart,’ which I actually thought was a great description of what I would ideally like the show to be.”