So, how did it go?
Chuck Todd's version of "Meet The Press" was not radically different than David Gregory's, but the show was certainly livelier, less stuffy. It was like a living room that has been subtly tweaked—same basic concept, but isn't that a new lamp over there? The biggest changes were not in content, but in tone.
For instance, nobody could say that many of Todd's panel guests, like Joe Scarborough and Andrea Mitchell, aren't familiar Washington faces, but "MTP" proved that it can welcome a pundit with—gasp!—tattoos and not fall apart.
— Dorsey Shaw (@dorseyshaw) September 7, 2014
And there were other small tweaks; Todd threaded his big interview with President Obama throughout the show instead of front-loading it at the beginning, turning to the panel after each portion was over. He surely hoped that this would keep the audience tuned in until the end to see all of Obama's comments.
But some things stayed the same. There was a segment on how bad the partisan gridlock in Washington is, and how mayors are doing a better job—certainly a Sunday-show mainstay. And the show's overall focus on the Beltway, and on the "game" and "optics" of politics, remained firmly in place. (The pundits all bizarrely seemed to agree that the midterm elections don't matter very much, for instance.)
Todd himself was chattier and funnier than Gregory ever managed to be; more importantly, he eschewed Gregory's tendency towards pomposity. He was engaged (and nicely tough in some places) with Obama ("What do you tell the person that's going to get deported before the election that this decision was essentially made in your hopes of saving a Democratic Senate?" he asked the president about his decision to delay executive action on immigration) and he didn't seem too cowed by the task before him.
His real test will be in the weeks and months ahead. Todd has vowed to cut down on the Beltway bloviators and said he won't book politicians unless they actually have a stake in the issue at hand. And, of course, he has to pull "Meet The Press" out of its ratings sinkhole. NBC will be keeping his fingers crossed that Todd can do both.