Daytime talkshow hosts have roughly the same life span as Hollywood celebrity marriages — there’s an initial attraction and a few good laughs, but the novelty factor wears off far too quickly. One might even argue that the talkshow host gig is a more brutal affair. Bonnie Hunt seems well-equipped to the task, with a genuinely funny style that exudes a certain sisterly charm. So far, however, the laughs aren’t big enough nor the concept as compelling as it needs to be to make viewers want to tune in daily.
Hunt entered the daytime talk mine field this week, and her Warner Bros.-distributed show has cleared 85% of the U.S. and 15 of the top 20 markets. Her approach is not unlike that of daytime dynamo Ellen DeGeneres: She’s self-depreciating, relatable and most importantly, a funny down-to-Earth Chicago gal. Yet while these qualities, along with natural acting instincts, make her a great movie co-star and a kooky best friend type, it does not necessarily a talkshow host make.
The first few eps were pleasant enough, and one has to give Hunt kudos for doing things her way. Channeling the retro style and ambiance of her personal hero Dean Martin (even down to the show graphics), Hunt relies on a very casual conversational style, seemingly flowing from one topic to another, everything peppered with homespun personal stories.
Throughout the show, Hunt often incorporates folks from her crew in her discussions, including exec producer Don Lake and writer Jon Kimmel (brother of Jimmy). The approach is meant to be improvisational, but then the props come out, and it’s obvious a good many of the jokes are just elaborate setups.
Elements of her shtick include a mildly amusing Art Linkletter-like segment interviewing kids, and having guests bring snacks and gifts for the audience. The nod to the old days of talkshows has its charm, but so far, “Bonnie Hunt” doesn’t feel that topical or relevant.
The set is unique and quite elaborate — if perhaps a bit too busy, spanning two levels with multiple doors and a ton of home photos.
Hunt’s time management with her guests is also still evolving. While having pal Robin Williams as her first guest seemed like a sure thing, he quickly ran off on all kinds of tangents leaving Hunt and the audience far behind. The guest list for the first few shows felt rather safe and featured lots of Hunt’s friends, including Joe Mantegna (bringing sandwiches from his Chicago restaurant), Hilary Duff, “Weeds” co-star Justin Kirk and Swoosie Kurtz.
Kurtz did provide Hunt with a great straight line, commenting, “It’s a great set,” to which the host shot back, “Well thank you. It is a new bra.”