By Michael Slezak
Updated September 06, 2006 at 04:56 PM EDT
Credit: Lewis Jacobs/NBC

So did everyone catch the CBS Evening News with Suri Cruise last night? Okay, okay, so maybe I’m being a tad melodramatic about the fact that Katie Couric used 30 seconds of her maiden voyage on the Eye network to offer a sneak peek at Vanity Fair’s cover shot of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ camera-shy baby (“Yes siree, she does exist!” the anchor exclaimed), but seriously, short of introducing a weekly best- and worst-dressed newsmakers segment, I can’t think of a more obvious way that Couric and CBS could have driven home the depressing message that the line between serious news and infotainment is blurrier than ever before.

Oh, sure, Couric couched the decision by also showing footage of a 1949 CBS newscast premiering photos of an infant Prince Charles — sort of a “See! The nightly news has always stopped for babies!” moment — but wouldn’t it have been a stronger (albeit less sexy) message if CBS has used Couric’s first and most-scrutinized broadcast to showcase nothing but the great reporting the network has been touting in recent radio and TV advertisements? Wouldn’t it have been refreshing if this morning, Americans were chatting about Lara Logan’s behind-the-scenes look at the resurgence of the Taliban in southern Afghanistan rather than the materializing of the Cruise child?

Putting Suri aside for a moment, however — yes, okay, she’s cute — Iwish there’d been a little more substance to the rest of the half-hour,too. White House correspondent Jim Axelrod’s piece about PresidentBush’s latest speech on the war on terror didn’t include any additionalinterviews or data (also known as reporting) to help place thepresident’s remarks in context — just Axelrod’s own feeble attempts tointerpret the spin (“Essentially Katie, this…this was a ‘stick withme’ speech.”). And frankly, one talking head per night is plenty;Couric’s chat with New York Times columnist Tom Friedman about whetherBush’s policies have made us safer was certainly weightier thanfilmmaker Morgan Spurlock’s cliche-filled call for more civil discoursein America, the latter the first of an ongoing, badly named”freeSpeech” series. (A side note: Was I the only one mesmerized bySpurlock’s necktie — a sort of shiny, pulsating, violet monstrositythat looked like it was about to spring to life and devour a kitten?)

Speaking of attire, nah, I’m not mentioning Couric’s… or any of thetelecast’s other male or female reporters. (PopWatch tries to limit thefashion commentary to red-carpet events, the Simpson gals, andcarnivorous accessories.) But I will say this: Katie seemed totally atease — appropriately serious, with a heaping portion of pleasant. Shespent much of the newscast either standing or leaning against theanchor desk, and yet to my surprise, I didn’t find it distracting. Andshe still hasn’t come up with a catchy sign-off, although she played amontage of famous ones from Walter Cronkite’s to Ron Burgundy’s — anamusing, pop culture nod that, unlike the Suri silliness, madeperfectly good sense.

What did you think of Couric’s decision to show off Suri on herdebut show? And how did you feel about the telecast as a whole? (If youmissed it, you can catch selected segments by clicking here.)