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More TV talk hopefuls wait in on-deck circle

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe you know Phil and Oprah; Sally Jesse and Geraldo; and Regis and Kathie Lee; and Montel and Maury; and Jerry, Joan, Jenny and Jane; Byron, Charlie, Faith and Vicki and Whoopi; Howard and Rush, Larry and Bob; and Arsenio, Jay and Dave?

Meet Chevy and Les; Ricki and Shirley; Jane and Jennifer; John and Leeza; and Bertice. They will be the hosts of your latest talk-show fare, coming to home screens everywhere during 1993.

Movie star Chevy Chase is entering into the late-night wars in September but the others are all tackling daytime. King World, which distributes the top-rated daytime talk show “Oprah,” is producing “The Les Brown Show,” which debuts in the fall, and which company president Michael King says is already sold in 70 percent of the United States with what he describes as terrific time spots.

“In New York, we’ve got one of the greatest time periods ever on WABC leading out of ‘Regis and Kathie Lee.’ I don’t think you can get any better than that,” King says. “He’s replacing Sally Jesse. In Pittsburgh, he’s replacingDonahue, and elsewhere, it’sMaury Povich or Geraldo. Everymajor talk show in America is being bumped in some market by Les Brown.”

Brown is a former radio personality, and Ohio state legislator, who has carved out a niche as a motivational speaker, touring the country and producing self-help books, tapes, and training programs. Toastmasters International selected him as one of the top five public speakers in the world.

PBS viewers know Brown for his participation in its national fund-raising efforts.

“He is unique and very special,” says Michael King. “He came from humble beginnings, but he has succeeded in almost everything he’s ever done. He’s built a grassroots national audience all on his own.”

King says the show will focus on helping people. “There are a lot of people going through difficult times. The ‘Les Brown Show’hopes to provide solutions,” King says. “Not only will we show other people, who’re facing these issues,but we’ll offer some places to go for some answers and some help.”

Brown says he hopes to break new ground with his talk show. “People’s primary source of information today is television. We’re interested in making television relevant,” Brown says. “If you can combine information with inspiration and be able to give people some things to enrich and empower their lives at a time full of uncertainty and pervasive fear, and make that entertaining, you’ve got a good rich combination. That’s what we plan to do.”

The show will have a studio audience and deal with a single issue. “We will deal with issues that affect people in a current context,” Brown says. “They will not be bitching sessions. We’ll have a predetermined objective so people can take notes. People need a sense of hope, they need something that can make them feel good. That’s what our program is designed to do.”

“Ricki,” with host Ricki Lake, an actress seen on TV’s “China Beach” and in such movies as “Cry-Baby,””Hairspray” and “Encino Man,” is a talk show with a slightly different bent, according to Alan Perris, senior VP, first-run programs at Columbia Pictures Television Distribution, which is syndicating the show.

“We’re making a talk show aimed at a younger audience,” Perris says. “It’s not a teen-age show. It’s for the 20- and 30-somethings.”

Produced by former Fox Network program chief Garth Ancier and ex-“Donahue” producer Gale Steinberg, “Ricki” will feature a lot of shows about relationships.

Ancier and Steinberg worked on a 13-week test run last spring of a show with Jane Pratt, who has her own program coming up on Lifetime Television. The show ran on Fox TV’s New York station and was apparently a casualty of former studio chief Barry Diller’s departure from Fox.

Producer Steinberg says, however, that they learned a great deal about how to capture an 18- to 34-year-old male and female audience. “We were No. 1 in the demographics we wanted,” Steinberg says. “The bigger surprise is that we were No. 2 for 18- to 49-year-old women. We learned that when you target for a young viewer, you capture a wider range.”

Steinberg says that for younger viewers, the pace of a talk show must be faster; the use of graphics and taped material has to be smarter and hipper.

“I don’t mean so hip that it’s edgy,” she says. “But it’ll have a fresher, younger feel to it. Ricki is the perfect charismatic–different, bright, young host for it.”

“Jane Pratt,” which debuts on Lifetime Television on March 1, is also targeting young people. Pratt was the editor of the magazine, “Sassy,” which is aimed at 14- to19-year-olds. The new talk show’s executive producer, Jim Ackerman, says he will target 18 to 24-year-olds.

“It’s rare in broadcasting where you can really target an audience the way Lifetime is letting this show,” Ackerman says. “MTV did a lot of great stuff during the election and it opened people’s eyes in a lot of ways. Everyone thought that generation was only interested in music and titillation. We’ll do fun stuff, but we’ll also cover issues and politics.”

Ackerman says he’s not reinventing the wheel with the show, he just wants to make it spin a bit faster. “We’ll have a live audience, but it will be a bit more intimate than a lot of talk shows,” he says.”What’s different is that we’re going to work tape segments in and have performances once a week.”

Steve Clements, executive producer of Twentieth Century Fox’s daytime entry “Bertice Berry”also has a line about not reinventing the talk-show wheel.

“We’re just adding radials,” he says. “‘Bertice Berry’ will go out live,” Clements says, “so we can keep it on the cutting edge. I want to do the type of thing that a ‘Today’ show or a ‘Good Morning America’ would do. If something happens out there in the morning, we’ll change the show so we can really be responsive to what’s happening.”

That’s also a priority on Rysher Entertainment’s new 30-minute “Wavelength,” which grew out of the popular “Youthquake” series hosted by former “Dance Fever” dancer Jennifer Magid-Spears. It debuts in the fall.

Jennifer, who prefers the single monicker, tours the country in a rented rock-star bus with cameramen and crew, and a portable set. From Chicago to Dallas and points east and west, Jennifer will present local kids dealing with universal issues.

“Every week we’ll come from a different city,” says executive producer Gay Rosenthal. “We do taped magazine segments in each place, and then Jennifer has a panel to discuss various subjects.”

Rosenthal says “Wavelength” is aimed at 12- to 24-year olds and deals with the issues and concerns of what’s on the minds of young adults.

The MTV generation, she says, is making its voice heard louder and clearer than ever before. “Politics is part of that,” she says.

On April 12, ABC-TV will replace the cancelled “Home” show with an import from Canada called “Shirley.”

Featuring Shirley Solomon, the show has been the No. 1 talk show on Canada’s CTV Network for the past four years. Theme shows have included such topics as gay cops; euthanasia; marrying rich; demonic possession; and the royal scandal. Solomon also does celebrity interviews.

Mary Alice Dwyer-Dobbin, senior VP, daytime programs for ABC Entertainment, says they are standard talk-show topics, but she says it’s the host who sets them apart.

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