OKLAHOMA CITY, April 6, 2011 – How many talk shows are too many? The TV market is already oversaturated with empty, unsubstantial daytime fluff, and new programs seem to pop up daily.
“CBS Evening News” lead anchor (not for long), Katie Couric, is the latest media gadfly expected to jump into the already-crowded afternoon chat field. If she does, Couric will join fellow ex-“Today” show anchors Faith Daniels and Jane Pauley, who both went on to host national talk shows that eventually faded away to daytime talk heaven.
Couric is expected to leave the post she took over almost five years ago, due to poor ratings, when her contract is up on June 4. Granted, CBS had been in third place behind NBC and ABC 13 years prior to Couric’s arrival, so her stint wasn’t an absolute failure; it just wasn’t an improvement.
Speculation is that she’ll launch a syndicated talk show next year. The field is as crowded as it’s ever been, even with the queen, Oprah Winfrey, stepping down from her throne on May 25.
Already, we have the “Regis and Kelly,” “The Talk,” ”The View,” “Ellen,” “Rachel Ray,” “Wendy Williams” and “Gayle King” shows to choose from, and Rosie O’Donnell and Anderson Cooper will soon join the ever-growing list.
With a daytime roster that jam-packed, will there be anything left to talk about? And what about guests? Are there even enough to go around?
Dr. Drew Pinksy just launched his own nightly evening talk show on HLN. Like Piers Morgan, Pinksy will face the task of providing enough relevant and compelling content to fill a nightly program. Thus far, Pinsky interviewed rock star Sammy Hagar, a couple of Charlie Sheen conquests, and a number of non-famous guests who deal with human behavior. Bottom line: Pinksy didn’t exactly lead off with a homerun.
This is precisely the problem with the influx of chat shows: Is there enough interesting stuff happening to warrant the plethora of homogenous programming?
One show that is successfully breaking the boring talk show mold is Bravo’s “Watch What Happens Live” with Andy Cohen. On its face, the show sounds like a major slog, Bravo reality stars interviewed by some random Bravo executive. However, guess what?—the show’s a lot of fun.
Cohen is one of the most entertainingly sincere personalities on TV, and wicked funny to boot. Bravo has the Midas touch when it comes to serving up tasty, guilty pleasure reality trash television. Cohen heightens the enjoyment factor of “Watch What Happens,” because he comes across as a super-obsessed fan, almost saying to the audience, “It’s okay to be so into the ‘Housewives’ shows.”
Couric admitted last week that she is “in talks” to develop her own syndicated program, but gave no details about format or content, which leads viewers to wonder if her slot will be any different.
The show will most likely consist of semi-relevant guests, semi-topical discussions, lifestyle and fashion tips, and more than likely, a fluffy cooking segment, unlike even the most local affiliate morning programming. There may be, however, another option on the table for Couric. Rumors abound about the possibility of the 54-year-old Couric re-teaming with her former long-time co-anchor, Matt Lauer.
Last week, Meredith Vieira reportedly expressed interest in leaving NBC’s “Today” when her contract expires later this year. Not only that, the king of morning network news, Matt Lauer, allegedly informed NBC bosses that he will not re-up with the network when his contract expires at the end of 2012.
Some speculate that the dream team of Couric and Lauer are in talks to join forces for their own program, produced by former NBC executive Jeff Zucker.
Vieira’s current contract only covers one year, and is worth about $11 million. Vieira reportedly turned down a multi-year deal in order to leave broadcasting, after many years of the early morning hour grind.
“Today” staple, Ann Curry, is currently the early frontrunner for the coveted co-anchor chair. However, one has to wonder about a return for Couric. Is that even possible? Would she do it? Would a return be considered a lateral move, or even a concession of defeat? Those are all important questions Couric will have to field while deciding in what capacity will she return to the less-serious side of TV news.
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