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ABC Shuffle: Amanpour Out, Stephanopoulos Back In, Tapper Robbed

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Withits Sunday-morning news show This Week trailing third in the ratings, ABC has decided to reshuffle the decks and turn back the clock. Christiane Amanpour, the international-news reporter who took over the show in 2010, is returning to CNN to host an international-affairs show (while also reporting for ABC); and she’ll be replaced starting Jan. 8 by George Stephanopoulos, who hosted the show before her, and now will be doing double duty on Good Morning America.

Amanpour’s hire was an example of a change in direction for the political-news show that didn’t take, and/or didn’t change enough to work. As I wrote when Amanpour was announced, she seemed like an odd choice for an interview show traditionally focused on Beltway politics; she would make more sense if This Week were to be retooled as a true world-news show. Instead, for the past year and a half, it’s been more of a political news show with an accent. It wasn’t really willing to break from from its competitors on CBS, NBC and Fox, which followed the Washington news of the week, and Amanpour, for all her skills, wasn’t quite a fit—even though, from a sheer journalism standpoint, it was good to have her on hand during events like this year’s Arab Spring.

Assuming ABC  wants to go back to basics and compete directly with a U.S.-politics-focused show in an election year, though, it’s baffling that the network went to the already-committed Stephanopoulos (is he also going to take over Dancing With the Stars from Tom Bergeron?), rather than go with White House correspondent Jake Tapper. As interim host before Amanpour took over, he brought a distinctive voice, ideas and social-media consciousness to the show, to the point that it began to feel like he should have gotten the permanent chair in the first place. Bringing back the overcommitted morning host is a missed opportunity, and highway robbery for Tapper.

ABC made a point of saying, though, that Tapper will contribute to This Week. And maybe Dancing With the Stars could use him too.