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Want to host a talk show? Stand in line

May 27, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Clinton. Ellen. Fergie. Cusack. Now, Stein.
Talk show hosting clearly has drawn more than passing interest lately from the celebrity crowd.
Call it a “changing of the guard,” but fall 2003 is shaping up as a launching pad for a new generation of talk shows. Although the names above have varying degrees of likelihood of making it to the airwaves-with Ellen DeGeneres the most likely and former President Bill Clinton the least-more continue to line up for a shot at becoming the next talk icon.
“Its clear that we’re at a time of transition in the talk show arena,” said Bill Carroll, VP, director of programming, Katz Television Group. “Rosie and Sally just left, Oprah already announced her departure. Talk shows are at a time of flux. If you consider that Bill Clinton was aspiring to become the next Oprah, it says a lot of the draw of hosting a talk show.”
Ben Stein appears to be the next celebrity who could sign a deal. Rumors say that Warner Bros. Domestic Television leads the pack of interested syndicators should Mr. Stein opt to take on a project.
Mr. Stein’s official Web site reads: “Ben Stein is working on a new TV project. For it, he needs humorous, sharp cases and controversies between people who would be willing to appear on TV and have Ben judge their cases. The people with the case would have to agree to be bound by Ben’s judgment, but they would not ever have to pay any money in connection with the case. Must be able to be explained in about six minutes and must be VERY funny.”
He continues to serve as the focal point of Comedy Central’s “Win Ben Stein’s Money” and even hosted a talk show for the network, “Turn Ben Stein On.”
Another name making it known that he’s interested in a talk show is former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who recently told the New York Post that he had been approached about working in television. Sources said, however, that a Fox News or CNN berth would be more likely for Mr. Giuliani than a syndicated strip.
Another familiar face that is much discussed is former “Melrose Place” actress Josie Bissett, who appears to be ready to tread down the talk show path. The actress may be best known for her Jane Mancini role on the erstwhile Fox drama, but she has also appeared in feature films such as “The Doors” and in a number of TV movies.
Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York and former wife of Britain’s Prince Andrew, has signed a deal with French-owned Vivendi Universal to host a talk show-for either syndication or cable-with a likely debut of fall 2003. And actress Joan Cusack is working with Buena Vista Television on a talk show, probably for ABC but possibly for syndication.
“If you find the right personality and the right producer, talk shows are relatively easy to produce and when successful are unbelievably profitable,” Mr. Carroll said. “Talk shows will always be the staple of daytime and late-night television. Some look at it as a springboard to a new direction in their career.”
Other names being bandied as potential talk show hosts are singer Gloria Estefan, “The Nanny’s” Fran Drescher and sitcom puppet Alf.