Television
4:17 am
Mon September 10, 2012

New Hosts Jockey To Be The New Oprah

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Daytime TV kicks off a new season this week. In the lineup are some new talk shows featuring big names, including Katie Couric, Ricki Lake and comedian and radio host Steve Harvey. TV critic Eric Deggans says they are all chasing after the elusive holy grail of daytime television - the audience that Oprah Winfrey left behind.

ERIC DEGGANS: Remember when Katie Couric sat behind the anchor desk at the CBS Evening News?

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "CBS EVENING NEWS")

KATIE COURIC: Recession fear caused the Dow to plunge...

DEGGANS: Or when she helped guide viewers through the greatest domestic terrorist attack in history on NBC's Today show?

(SOUNDBITE OF "TODAY")

COURIC: Apparently a plane has just crashed into the World Trade Center here in New York City. It happened just...

DEGGANS: So why does Katie Couric sound like this now?

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "KATIE")

COURIC: Jessica Simpson on her body after baby, Jennifer Lopez on dating a younger man. "Fifty Shades of Gray" author E.L. James.

DEGGANS: You could say this is the wheelhouse Couric never should have abandoned. It's an hour of the light-hearted stuff she handled masterfully for 15 years as co-anchor on the Today show.

(SOUNDBITE OF "KATIE" THEME SONG)

SHERYL CROW: (Singing) Are you ready for this day?

DEGGANS: Now she's back in daytime with a set that could've been cribbed from the pages of O magazine and a theme song written by Sheryl Crow.

(SOUNDBITE OF "KATIE" THEME SONG)

CROW: (Singing) ...moving through a crowded street. You'll find your way.

DEGGANS: Her new program, "Katie," reaches for the talk show crown abdicated last year by Oprah Winfrey, queen of the industry for 25 years. Last year, stars like Anderson Cooper and Nate Berkus tried to fill that void. But Berkus' show was cancelled and Cooper's program has been seriously revamped for this new season. And Katie Couric's not the only one chasing this prize.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE RICKI LAKE SHOW")

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: It's the premiere of "The Ricki Lake Show."

DEGGANS: Lake hosted her own daytime show from the mid'90s to 2004. And now she's back.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE RICKI LAKE SHOW")

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Revealing conversations.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: Being a mom is the hardest job in the entire world.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #4: Being a working mom has actually, I think, made me a better mother.

DEGGANS: And her new show is aimed right at the Oprah demographic: middle-aged, middle class, often-white women. They made Winfrey a billionaire and a talk show legend. So it's no wonder Couric, Lake and even "Survivor" host Jeff Probst are wooing that same crowd. But I really don't think it's possible to create a new Oprah.

When Winfrey began building her empire, she had much less competition. Phil Donahue was the king of talk back then. Now, there's "The View," "The Talk," "The Chew," "Good Afternoon America" and a half dozen judge shows led by the new queen of daytime TV.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW "JUDGE JUDY")

JUDGE JUDY SHEINDLIN: You are responsible for everything that happened. Do you get it?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #5: Um...

SHEINDLIN: Um is not an answer.

DEGGANS: That's right. Judge Judy Sheindlin draws an average 8 million viewers each day. She's now the top-rated talker on daytime TV.

What was always most interesting about Oprah Winfrey's success in daytime, was that she seemed so unlike her fans. At the height of her success, she was an unmarried, childless billionaire of color who somehow knew what her middle aged, middle class white female audience wanted before they did.

You could say the same thing for hosts such as Ellen DeGeneres, Dr. Phil McGraw, Dr. Mehmet Oz and newcomer Steve Harvey. Perhaps because they can see their audience from a distance, they know how to reach them a little better, which might be tough news for Katie Couric and Ricki Lake. Because it's possible those who are best at luring daytime TV's audience are stars standing on the outside looking in.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: Eric Deggans is TV and Media critic for the Tampa Bay Times.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.

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