10 Years of ‘Access’: Talent, Content Change With Times

Nov 7, 2005  •  Post A Comment

By Lee Alan Hill

Special to TelevisionWeek

“I think what really makes our show is that we have the best on-camera group in the business,” said Ryan Patterson, who recently moved from producer on the weekend “Access Hollywood” to a supervising producer on the daily version.

“We’ve got one great group of people,” she said.

“Access Hollywood” has had relative stability-at least by Hollywood standards-in front of the cameras during its decade on the air. While the original daily hosts, Giselle Fernandez and Larry Mendte, departed not long after the series premiered, Nancy O’Dell has been with the show since its inception and Tony Potts and Shaun Robinson, who anchor the weekend edition, joined in 1999.

True, Pat O’Brien, who was co-host from 1997-2004, is gone, but he’s been replaced by Billy Bush, who was New York correspondent for three years before assuming the anchor chair. While Maria Menounos recently joined as a special correspondent after doing similar duties on competitor “Entertainment Tonight,” Tim Vincent, who has been New York correspondent since January, actually has “Access” roots: He served as co-host of the United Kingdom version.

“I really feel as if we’re in place,” Mr. Potts said. “We’ve started to get more exclusive stories. But the feel of the show remains. We still do our stories in a minute, a minute and a half. It’s quick-moving and that style will, I am sure, always remain.”

There has been no revolving door in front of the cameras, but there have been some changes to content, all adopted to keep with the mantra that the show cover “TV, film and music only,” per executive producer Rob Silverstein.

One change that began in 2001 was the addition of a New York correspondent, currently Mr. Vincent, whose base in that city gives him flexibility to travel the East Coast and to Europe if need be, whether covering the celebrity angle of a royal wedding or the Venice Film Festival.

“There’s so much going on in New York it makes sense to have someone here,” Mr. Vincent said. “I don’t have to compete for airtime, because the assignments are there. Several times a week I do a ‘Broadway Minute,’ often covering the celebrities who are attending openings or have decided to give the stage a turn. I’m also here for Fashion Week, which we are covering more of.”

Coverage of fashion is, per Ms. Patterson, one of the chief on-air changes of the last year or so, but done with an “Access Hollywood” spin. Part of that coverage is the celebrity interest in fashion shows, but it has gone further.

“I love fashion, and our audience, which is mostly female, loves fashion,” said Ms. Patterson. “So we’ve developed a segment called ‘Fashion Fix,’ which runs just about every day.”

The segment highlights what celebrities are wearing to events and the designers, but most important, said Ms. Patterson, it demonstrates how the audience can wear the same look for a fraction of the cost.

“For example, take jeans,” she said. “The celebrities wear jeans that are hugely expensive, sometimes $200 a pair and up. But we tied the segment in with a company called Forever 21, which does lower-price versions.”

Similarly, the show did a segment on the loofah hair permanents favored by Mary Kate Olsen, but showed how viewers can buy loofah sponges and get the look on their own.

“We had these macho big crew guys wanting to know more about that for the women in their lives,” Ms. Patterson said, laughing.

Additionally, “Access Hollywood” gained some attention during the summer by going on location for five weeks to almost 20 cities. While that might be tried again, the unveiling last month of “Access Hollywood’s” new set, more likely means, Ms. Patterson said, “that the show will hang around the NBC lot for the foreseeable future.”

Mr. Bush is happy with the show’s new home too.

“The new set is a confidence booster,” he said. “I think it’s a chance to do a bit more comedy too-have fun with the set as we have fun with the celebrity news.”