So what’s up with Rocketboom, the popular video blog that lost its longtime host, Amanda Congdon? When we last left the he said/she said soap opera, Rocketboom honcho Andrew Baron was readying a replacement for Congdon, while Congdon was upset about being “unboomed” from the show.
While I was away on vacation last week (many thanks to Henry Jenkins for filling in so ably), the new Rocketboom anchor, Joanne Colan, had her debut performance, and Congdon took her story all over the mainstream media.
The takeaways? Rocketboom and Congdon probably received more media attention during the split than at any time in its history. At one point, the Rocketboom site had to run an error message, likely because of the inundation of traffic. But then again, what did they have to show for their media moment? Congdon’s replacement, Colan, had a shaky start and her performances have been mixed so far. Sometimes funny, sometimes forced.
As for Congdon, we just don’t know what will happen next, and she says she has a mountain of job offers. An old college friend of mine, Lee Erwin, told me he had never heard of Congdon or Rocketboom until the publicity around their split. He doesn’t believe Rocketboom will be able to replace Congdon for two big reasons:
“I don’t want to sound too crude, but Rocketboom will not be able sustain its pre-Congdon appeal because — obviously — Rocketboom’s popularity derived primarily from Congdon’s tits,” he wrote me in an email. “I’m sure she’ll do quite well in Hollywood — she’ll be on the cover of Maxim or FHM in no time.”
Erwin is not alone in his vulgar analysis. Slate’s TV critic Troy Patterson says that Congdon’s “main mandate was to jiggle. Her ability to redefine the role of the bimbo in a way reflecting the spirit of the age led her to niche superstardom.” Valleywag even had an online poll where 80% of respondents said Congdon was popular because of “her two ‘assets.’”
So finally we get to your answers to the question I posed, “Who should replace Amanda Congdon at Rocketboom (if that’s possible)?” Your opinions varied widely, with some suggestions on replacements, some thinking Congdon was irreplaceable, while others thought Baron could just insert another pretty, uh, face.
“Everyone is replaceable,” wrote Jusmee. “Let’s face it — Amanda is incredibly attractive. But a stand-alone reporter, actress or personality she is not. Andrew [Baron] found her as a nobody on Craigslist, and there are 1,000 other hot nobodies waiting to take her place. She’ll go on to do just fine for herself, of course, and one day she may be great. For now she is pretty good, and damn good looking. That’s it.”
ITMonkey, who runs the Markdown Monkey blog, just never got Congdon.
“I always wanted to like Rocketboom, but I just couldn’t,” ITMonkey wrote. “Something about Amanda Congdon just rubbed me the wrong way. Am I the only one who felt this way? (Yes, I’m male; yes, I’m straight) I’ll be sure to ‘tune in’ when they start their new ‘anchor.’”
The only suggestions for replacements were Star Jones, formerly of “The View,” and Karina Stenquist of MobuzzTV. On the other side, James Neal summed up the case for Congdon’s unique appeal.
“They will never find anyone that is as beautiful and intelligent as Amanda,” Neal wrote. “I’m following her wherever she goes. Forget Rocketboom. Amanda rules.”
Online news veteran Howard Owens noted that the whole brouhaha could have a galvinizing effect on all of videoblogging and online video.
“I think the important thing is is the role Rocketboom plays in promoting online video,” Owens wrote. “Media companies need the success of shows like Rocketboom because it helps raise the overall demand/comfort level people have for online video. RB’s kerfluffle could help bring more attention to the show, or the loss of Amanda could hurt the show’s popularity. Either way, it could have ripple effects for online video in general — more so if the show becomes more popular, almost nil if it becomes less so (because those who have adopted more to video after becoming hooked on RB aren’t going to go backwards).”
My blogging cohort at PBS, Andy Carvin, goes against the grain, saying that the new anchor should have more talent than just good looks.
“I’m worried there’s some public pressure to turn this into a quest for the ‘hottest’ replacement,” Carvin said. “But the key thing will be to find someone who’s funny as hell and has a distinct personality that can keep people coming back for more. I’d hate to see an Amanda doppleganger. Heck, I’d almost rather preview the candidates by listening to a podcast of their reel rather than seeing them.”
Well, now we have Colan, and perhaps she’s a lightweight version of Congdon with a British accent. Or maybe she will grow on us. Time will tell.