Talkshows continue to sprout like mushrooms, for reasons best left to sociologists and TV accountants. Of these four new ones, three don’t add much that’s new or compelling to the idiom, and perhaps only “The Gordon Elliott Show” has a chance to break out into something really offbeat.
Easily the most cerebral show of the four is that of author/commentator Dennis Prager, a 12-year vet of KABC radio, where he likes to tweak liberals and come down hard on questions of right vs. wrong.
In his half-hour talkshow, he seems to have the deck stacked toward the philosophy that if something goes wrong in your life, it’s your responsibility to straighten it out.
On TV, Prager pushes hit-and-run tidbits of wisdom along these lines in his opening monologue, backed by push-button applause from the audience.
His guest on the premiere, author/actor Gregory Alan-Williams — who rescued an innocent bystander during the Los Angeles riots — seems set up to play right into Prager’s hands. But the articulate, polished Alan-Williams cleverly confronts Prager about the actions of the police who beat Rodney King, and Prager has to abruptly change the subject back to his individual heroism tack.
And of course, there’s a book to be plugged, which explains why this debated-to-death news story was dredged up again.
Two former sitcom stars, Suzanne Somers and Marilu Henner, are geared in fluffier directions on their hourlong talkfests.
At first, Somers comes off like another semi-articulate host, fawning over her sole so-called celebrity guest, Roger Clinton, goading him to sing “Red Roses for a Blue Lady.”
But one can’t dismiss Somers too quickly. She senses how and when to stay out of the way as she lets Clinton vent his soul in a long discussion about his past drug problems. The climax, an account of his confrontation with brother Bill (then governor of Arkansas) about his errant direction in life, is actually quite moving. Obviously there is some sensitivity behind the showbiz facade.
By comparison, Henner’s hyper personality makes Somers’ show seem like “Face the Nation.” Henner is just too much, nearly hyperventilating in a taped intro on the Paramount lot (“This used to be Arsenio’s stage!” she gushes about her set — which may be a bad omen), coming out before the live audience in a near-frenzy.
Henner has three male guests: her former “Taxi” co-star Tony Danza (naturally), Kelsey Grammer and Mike Myers. They all twitch around in their chairs, seemingly set off by Henner’s volatile energy level. She switches topics out of the blue with little or no preparation, or suddenly takes an isolated question from the audience that has nothing to do with what she and the guys were gabbing about.
About the only cool thing on the program is the pleasant electric-jazz background music, courtesy of heavyweights George Duke and Jean-Luc Ponty.
From the looks of its premiere, “The Gordon Elliott Show” is a bizarre hybrid of all kinds of TV influences, thrown together in a high-energy melange that just might click with the right topic.
Elliott, a 6-foot 7-inch Australian, has a high-powered, tabloid delivery right off “A Current Affair” (on which he used to appear) and loves to roam off the set a la David Letterman and in the audience a la Phil Donahue and Oprah Winfrey.
However, his first program, “Take My Daughter, Please!” looked like an overblown variation on “The Love Connection” in which various, usually voluble moms pick out dates for their daughters.
Everyone utters unctuous love cliches that make you cringe, the newly united couples are asked to get to know each other right on the set in the midst of the madness, and desperate viewers at home are invited to contact anyone they see on the screen.
It’s a circus that doesn’t prove anything, but unlike the other three hosts, at least Elliott tries to exploit the possibilities of TV.