The few, the proud: the fallen heroes of The Great Talk Show Rush Of 1995. The video above explains it all.
On Monday, three new syndicated talk shows debut in syndication, with new hosts Katie Couric, Jeff Probst, and the return of Ricki Lake. Along with Steve Harvey (whose show debuted Sept. 4) and Trisha Goddard (debuting Sept. 17), that’s a total of five talk shows premiering this month.
Even though Katz’s vice president and director of programming (Bill Carroll) said in an Media Life article last week this upcoming season sets a record for most new syndicated talk shows in a single season, it’s actually not true – yours truly remembers a year when there were eight freshmen talk shows – yes, that’s right: eight of them. And they all debuted in a two-week period in September 1995. How do I know all this? Remember, you’re reading a blog written by the ultimate television geek, whose has read most issues of Electronic Media, Broadcasting, Variety, and basically any TV periodical since 1985.
Here were the lucky souls who jumped into the fray with established hosts such as Jerry Springer and Maury Povich (whose respective shows are still on the air) and Lake, who is returning with a new, different show. As you’ve probably guessed, these shows didn’t last long:
– Carnie Wilson. Simply named Carnie, the daughter of the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson and former singer from the group Wilson Phillips hosted this conflict talk show, which many pundits said this was a ripoff of Ricki Lake. After several months of lackluster ratings, Warner Bros. pulled the plug and replaced her with someone who was a little more successful: Rosie O’Donnell. Wilson previously hosted GSN’s new Newlywed Game, but was replaced by Sherri Shepard in 2010.
– Danny Bonaduce. Titled Danny!, the former Partridge Family star taped his issues-oriented talk show from Chicago, where he was still holding down a gig for WLUP-FM (The Loop), where he made a successful comeback. Danny! flopped, lasting only three months. A year-and-a-half after his TV talk show was canceled, Bonaduce exited WLUP after the station was sold. Since then, Bonaduce starred in his own reality show titled Breaking Bonaduce and held down radio gigs in L.A. and Philadelphia. Bonaduce is currently morning-drive personality at KZOK-FM in Seattle.
-Gabrielle Carteris. Sold in tandem with Mark L. Walberg’s program (see below), the former Beverly Hills 90210 star couldn’t get anyone to tune in to her issue-oriented show, and Twentieth Television mercifully canceled it after four months. Carteris was recently seen in an Old Navy ad, along with a few other Beverly Hills 90210 alumni.
– The Mark Walberg Show. Not to be confused with the actor/rapper of the same name, Mark L. Walberg hosted this issues-oriented show sold in tandem with Garbielle Caretris’ talker, although with a different syndicator (New World.) The show did last longer than Garbielle – by five months. Walberg went on to host a show even sleazier than his own: Temptation Island.
– Tempesett Blesdoe. Her low-key issue-oriented talker, produced by Dick Clark Productions and hosted by the former Cosby Show star, lasted only one season. Its greatest achievement? Getting beat in the ratings by The 700 Club in Portland, Ore. Blesdoe is returning this fall to prime-time married to Anthony Anderson in NBC’s Guys With Kids.
– George & Alana. Lasting six months, this series was a blatant ripoff of Live With Regis & Kathie Lee, hosted by the always tan George Hamilton and his ex-wife, Alana Stewart.
– The Stephanie Miller Show. Unlike the other shows listed, this series aired primarily in late-night. Hosted by Los Angeles radio personality Stephanie Miller, this show lasted just three months before Buena Vista Television pulled the plug and Danny Bonaduce’s show. These two were the last shows Buena Vista distributed before the syndicator’s parent (The Walt Disney Company) merged with ABC. Miller is still in radio, hosting a syndicated talker with is also simulcasted on Current TV.
– Lauren Hutton and… The model/actress hosted this late-night one-on-one interview series, similar in format to Whoopi Goldberg’s short-lived 1992 late-night talker. This would be the last project Turner Program Services would syndicate before its buyout by Time Warner and its merge with Warner Bros. Domestic Television.
In addition, The Charles Perez Show, a conflict talker from Tribune Entertainment that debuted earlier in 1995, was canceled in March 1996.
Also of note: the 1995-96 season was the last one for Phil Donahue, who retired after 29 years (though his show being dropped in his home market of New York City had something to do with it…)
The 1995-96 season was also saw a return of a familiar phrase talk show fans saw before: “Trash TV”, used to describe the heyday of controversial talkers Geraldo Rivera and Morton Downey Jr., as fights, hair-pulling, and chair throwing were common on these shows – particularly on Springer, Perez, and Richard Bey (whose own hory show would also exit in 1996. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen women mud-wrestling to pig noises.) Topics such as “Stop having sex with my man!” and “Oops! I got the babysitter pregnant!” were quite common. Three congressmen also took aim at these type of shows – not to mention critics like the American Family Association and the Parents Television Council, who formed in 1995 – the same year many trash TV talkers’ skyrocketed in popularity.
At the same time, Oprah Winfrey and Phil Donahue, who dabbled in some of the topics of Trash TV in the past, were now touting the high road they took. But its interesting to note by 1998, the top-rated talk show on television was Jerry Springer, who became a target by critics and was even hauled in front of the Chicago City Council regarding the non-stop fighting on his show.
The reason why the entire freshman talk show class of 1995 failed wasn’t because of racy topics or advertiser unrest – it was mainly because of a glut of talk shows on the air – dividing up audiences and ratings. You also have to factor in the effects of the O.J. Simpson trial – the six daytime talkers were not able to get decent sampling because these shows debuted at a time the trial was winding down and more and more viewers fled into the entrances of CNN and Court TV.
With a similar glut of product, could The Great Talk Show Rush of 2012 meet a similar fate? Yes, that’s a possibility, but these days, times are different – syndicators are more tolerant of lower ratings – preferring the show finds an audience, hence the return of Wendy Williams and Jeremy Kyle for another season. And lower numbers are more acceptable in an era of more viewing choices, such as DVR’s, Netflix, Hulu, and on-demand viewing – platforms that weren’t available in 1995, although the VCR was. Today’s conflict talkers – Springer, Povich, Steve Wilkos, and Jeremy Kyle among them – aren’t even a concern anymore, as politicians and advocacy groups have moved on to other issues.
So as we are about to open another season in the world of syndication, sometimes it helps to take a look at the past – because it awfully looks so much like the future. You know what? We’ll have a sitcom named Partners on the air this fall – just like we did in 1995.
(Updated 2012-09-11 at 11:08 p.m.)