The Demise of the Celebrity Talk Show

 Illustration by: John Ueland
A version of this story first appeared in the May 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
The allure of the daytime talk show is undeniable: a daily platform, a set schedule and, in success, tens of millions of dollars. But since Oprah Winfrey ended her game-changing gabfest in 2011, the single-host talk show has fallen out of favor
.This coming fall, for the first time in years, no talk show fronted by a high-profile host is scheduled to launch. And the only such show from fall 2014 still on the air, NBCUniversal’s The Meredith Vieira Show, is struggling.
.On the flip side, consider the dozen or so contenders whose pricey shows haven’t lasted more than two years: Katie Couric, Jeff Probst, Anderson Cooper, Bethenny Frankel, Bonnie Hunt, Nate Berkus, Ricki Lake and Queen Latifah.In fact, only Steve Harvey and Wendy Williams have thrived in the space as daytime’s landscape has become dominated by The Ellen DeGeneres Show (variety as much as talk), probing psychological analysis (Dr. Phil), medical mysteries (The Dr. Oz Show), food talk (Rachael Ray, The Chew), panels (The View, The Real, The Talk) and so-called conflict talkers (Maury, The Jerry Springer Show).Why are so many star-driven talk shows failing? Many blame the cost of launching with an A-list personality and a chasm between modern celebrity and the appeal required to keep viewers day in, day out. “It’s the chemistry between the host and the producers and with the audience,” says CBS daytime head Angelica McDaniel. “Viewers pick up on that.”Latifah received a huge promotional launch from Sony TV and a strong station lineup but lasted only two seasons. “People liked the personality she demonstrated in movies,” says a TV syndication distribution executive, “but that’s not who she is. One thing about daytime: You can’t fake it.””These talk shows are with celebrities who have huge name value,” says David Perler, executive producer of Wendy, “but the name value doesn’t hold up. If you can’t deliver and you don’t have strong opinions and you just want to talk niceties with celebrities on the couch about their upcoming projects, I don’t think people want that anymore.””We have so much access to stars,” says Sean Compton, Tribune Broadcasting Co.’s president of production. “You can watch TMZ or five other shows and see what they ate for dinner last night. So I don’t think being a celebrity is enough. It’s really in the subject they are talking about. It’s how they deliver. Their personalities have to resonate with the audience.”




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