By Lanford Beard
Updated November 03, 2011 at 09:25 PM EDT
Credit: Jake Herrle/CNN

Can CNN reinvent its morning line-up? It looks like that’s what the cable news net is hoping, and execs have tapped Soledad O’Brien to lead the charge. They’ve invited O’Brien back to the sunrise shift as moderator of a conversational morning news show that will air from 7 to 9 a.m. weekdays. It’s an interesting move for an otherwise traditional network. Certainly panel shows are blowing up right now, but they’ve only been met with mixed reception. For every The Five, there’s also The Chew. And none of the shows on the air right now begins as early as O’Brien’s new vehicle will. Do people want that much talk first thing in the morning, or do they want their news straight-no-chaser like a bitter but necessary shot of wheatgrass?

According to CNN managing editor Mark Whitaker, who is overseeing the show’s development, now “is an exciting time to be relaunching our morning show, with the morning television audience more up for grabs than it has been in years.” The net plans to use this show as a restructuring tool to bring the four-hour morning programming block in the morning more in line with its primetime roster. As for O’Brien, she said in a statement, “I welcome the opportunity to give voice to people who aren’t often heard, and stories that are sometimes overlooked. I’m looking forward to bringing the perspective, heart and storytelling that have worked well in our documentaries to a morning audience.”

Since CNN is set on moving forward with this experiment, who would make a good complement to O’Brien? Would someone loud and lively — the Kathie Lee to her Hoda — be a good fit, or do you think it’s too early in the morning for the news anchor equivalent of slamming a Red Bull? Will the service and lifestyle content so heavily packed into shows like Today and Good Morning America make for an unwieldy fit on CNN, especially given O’Brien’s experience as a high-profile serious news correspondent? Should she and CNN stick to meat-and-potatoes news? Either way, how will this new set-up differentiate itself from your average dayside news broadcast?

What do you think, PopWatchers? Are you optimistic about a blend of hard-hitting news and morning fodder? Will you watch O’Brien’s transition and her as-yet-unnamed co-hosts? Who would you like to see in the other chairs?

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