Fox’s Hopes High for ‘Morning Show’

Jan 15, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Juliet Huddy and Mike Jerrick are the same pair that for more than four years have played off each other on Fox News Channel’s “Fox and Friends” and “DaySide.”

Now Fox Television Stations and Twentieth Television are betting the

television hosts’ chemistry will break a jinx that has stymied Fox’s efforts to develop a lasting national morning show. “The Morning Show With Mike and Juliet,” which starts Jan. 22 on 24 Fox-owned stations, represents the company’s latest attempt to create competition for ABC’s, CBS’s and NBC’s wake-up programs.

Fox is entrusting “The Morning Show” to executive producer Tom Mazzarelli, who polished his live morning-show skills at NBC’s top-rated “Today” as a senior broadcast producer before Fox in November tapped him to lead the new show.

“They don’t start morning shows every day,” he said.

Fox is hoping that the third attempt at establishing a solid national morning show is a charm, because a successful vehicle could give the stations a bigger slice of the potentially lucrative morning/daytime market that makes competitors like “Today” profitable parts of other networks’ a.m. lineups. In 1996, a former FX cable show was transferred to broadcast as “Fox After Breakfast,” which suddenly was reborn with Vickie Lawrence as host. That show was canceled in 1998. In 2001, “Good Day Live” was spun off Fox-owned KTTV’s “Good Day L.A.,” with Dorothy Lucey and Jillian Barberie. That pair was replaced by Arthel Neville and Debbie Matenopoulos, a move that failed to stave off cancellation in 2005.

“The Morning Show” will benefit from the support and promotion of Roger Ailes, who runs Fox’s stations and news operations.

Fox plans to roll the show out to stations outside the Fox owned-andoperated group throughout the rest of the year. “The Morning Show’s” cashplus format means stations that pick up the show will pay a license fee in addition to splitting commercial time in the hour, with 3½ minutes for Twentieth and 10½ minutes for the stations.

“The reception from the marketplace has been very, very good,” Twentieth Television President and COO Bob Cook said. “The Morning Show” will be topical, but it will not have the news-heavy character of the first half-hour of “Today,” Mr. Mazzarelli, Ms. Huddy and Mr. Jerrick said. Instead it will focus on the staples of the rest of “Today” and of many other daytime shows: celebrities, lifestyle and health.

The show also will host the occasional concert outside the Fox News headquarters studio in Rockefeller Center-a mere four blocks from NBC’s granddaddy of windowed morning-show studios for “Today.”

“The Morning Show” will have two distinct audiences in Rockefeller Center. There’s the view from the sidewalk through the windows on 47th Street and that from the in-studio seating area that will a have close-up view of the action from inside the earth-toned set. The set has the traditional home-like base from which the co-hosts are likely to kick off most shows, a couch-interview area and demonstration areas-plus hanging lights that look like home lighting on steroids.

“The studio has everything you would want it to,” Mr. Mazzarelli said of the set before the finishing touches had been made. The space is rigged for eventual high-definition production; in the meantime, it will be broadcast in a horizontal format. If you have an HD set, the show will fill your screen, the executive producer said.

Branded segments and a family of contributors may develop as “The Morning Show” grows. For the time being, Mr. Mazzarelli is leaving himself and his launch staff lots of room to play.

The plan is to give the talent on the show room to grow into a team that might entice viewers-primarily the female demographics that tune into the local morning shows on Fox owned-and-operated stations-to stick around for another hour.

Ms. Huddy and Mr. Jerrick are pals and both swear they have been since the moment they met. Both are coffee addicts and plan to start mainlining the brew now that they have to get up before dawn. They live near each other in Hoboken, N.J.

Last week, when Ms. Huddy suddenly got a violent 24-hour stomach bug, Mr. Jerrick offered to haul anything she needed up the hill she lives on. She declined and was back at work the following day sounding strong.

“He changed my life. I always felt like I couldn’t show my personality until I saw how much it worked with him,” said Ms. Huddy, who was born to the business.

Her father John Huddy, once a critic for the Miami Herald, moved to TV and went to work for Tom Snyder’s “Tomorrow,” where he also worked with Mr. Ailes. Mr. Huddy would go on to work for CBS News, Fox, Paramount and Tri-Star.

Mr. Jerrick, a Kansas native and local-TV veteran whose habits include dispensing lottery tickets to workmates, says he aspires to a style that falls midway between David Hartman and Johnny Carson-with touched of Jonathan Winters, and Robin Williams.

No wonder “The Morning Show” needs only two hosts.