Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin are America’s hottest couple.
The duo reprised their crazy shtick on CNN’s wholly whacked out New Year’s Eve broadcast, creating two and a half hours of must-see television live from their stoop above Times Square. Their show was flip, irreverent and fun, with Cooper playing the straight man to Griffin’s loony tabloid monster character, which may or may not be a character. Their chemistry carried the entire broadcast, and together they made the whole thing look easy. For signs of strain you had to look at the competing networks’ NYE coverage, with Ryan Seacrest and Jenny McCarthy’s lame ABC broadcast or the Carson Daly/ Angela Kinsey horror show on NBC.
Griffin draws out a new side to Cooper, turning him into a cringing figure of embarrassment trying desperately to keep the broadcast from running off the rails. But off the rails is where the show shines, and Griffin keeps Cooper constantly on his toes, trying to salvage any dignity he can while Griffin keeps dragging him further down the black hole of decency. Early in the show she said she was going to “tickle his sack,” and Cooper chuckled nervously while he tried to explain he had no sack of Christmas toys with him and did not know to what she was referring. Later in the evening, after the ball dropped at midnight, Cooper spent six awkward minutes trying to stop Griffin from simulating oral sex with him.
But even without the tawdry behavior — the continuation of what’s become a tradition, after Griffin has in past years dropped the F-bomb live on air and whipped her top off on camera — the Cooper and Griffin show is the best thing going on New Year’s Eve. Griffin talks openly and honestly about what is happening on the other networks’ broadcasts — while Taylor Swift was performing behind her for ABC cameras, Griffin mocked Swift and even threw her cue cards in her direction — and gets Cooper to open up in ways he probably wouldn’t if Griffin wasn’t constantly poking and prodding him. Griffin, in between fibs about the guests and segments they had coming up (she kept teasing an upcoming Rihanna performance… “in seven minutes!”), was all but stalking Ryan Seacrest, and got Cooper to admit his feelings about the gift Seacrest had sent to him prior to the show. (“It was a total domination move,” Cooper grumbled.) At one point before the broadcast Cooper and Griffin left their perch to seek out Seacrest, and ran into NBC host Carson Daly instead. Catching Daly off guard before he went into full plastic mode, the ex-”TRL” host was far more charming and at ease than he was while hosting his own show later in the night.
Cooper and Griffin also riffed on pop culture, and Griffin outed Cooper as being rather clueless as to the current stars of today. He admitted to not knowing who Demi Lovato was or what Flo Rida’s “Whistle” was, and he questioned the popularity of Brit sensations One Direction. “Do people actually listen to One Direction?” he asked. “I know little kids do, do adults?” Later he referred to “Gangnam Style” rapper Psy as “that guy, uhh, the South Korean guy. What’s his name, Psy?” and after saying “Gangnam Style” is “done,” he got a terrifically awkward surprise visit on-set from Psy and MC Hammer. He greeted Hammer but later admitted to having no idea who he was. ”That wasn’t really MC Hammer. Who was that? No. Was it really? I had no idea! He’s now hooked up with Psy?” he stuttered.
The CNN free-for-all made the ABC and NBC broadcasts look even more painful. On ABC, Seacrest did his best to hold things together and keep everything as bland as possible while co-host Jenny McCarthy — Jenny McCarthy! — did her Jenny McCarthy thing with revelers in Times Square. (CNN at least had the good sense to not talk to the people at all. They don’t have anything remotely interesting to say anyway, especially not in a four second blip.) There was even an online poll to determine whom Jenny McCarthy would kiss at midnight, as if anyone cares who Jenny McCarthy kisses at midnight? After the ball dropped and near the end of the broadcast, McCarthy was rolling around on the confetti covered ground making out with a cardboard cutout of Justin Bieber, which pretty much sums up ABC’s entire broadcast. (The less said about the charisma-free team of Daly and “The Office” co-star Kinsey, the better.)
New Year’s Eve broadcasts are tricky to pull off, but Cooper and Griffin have the right chemistry and strike the right oddball notes. Theirs is the real New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.