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Just a few years back, when you thought of daytime talk shows, "The Oprah Winfrey Show" was likely the first one that came to mind. For 24 consecutive seasons, it was the No. 1 daytime talk show, and Winfrey -- known as the queen of daytime -- won so many Emmys for her hosting work that she took herself out of the running altogether. When her show went off the air in 2011 -- which coincided with some long-running soap operas fading to black -- suddenly the market was open wide, and networks were more than eager to take chances on some new talk shows. Make that several new talk shows. In the week ahead, we'll be introduced to three of them -- "The Ricki Lake Show," "Katie," and "The Jeff Probst Show" -- all of which premiere on September 10.
While any of these new shows might become the next big hit, as "go time" approaches the biggest interest is surrounding Katie Couric's new show. For much of the summer the "Katie" host has been in publicity overdrive for the show, which will be news-driven (she is a former news anchor!), but will also cover lifestyles topics. "The marketing department of ABC came up with 'smart with heart,' which I actually thought was a great kind of description of what I would ideally like the show to be," the 55-year-old told TV critics this summer. While you shouldn't expect to see her sitting down with Sarah Palin again, she will dip into the political world, interviewing the wives and children of presidential and vice-presidential candidates. There will be plenty of celebrity types too -- some guests lined up are Jessica Simpson, debuting post-baby body, Heidi Klum, Sheryl Crow, Jennifer Lopez, and Barbra Streisand. Another much-touted interview will be with Aimee Copeland, the Georgia student who battled a flesh-eating bacterial infection. And there will be a regular segment called YOLO ("You Only Live Once") during which Couric crosses things off her bucket list -- like when she takes a lap around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with race car driver Danica Patrick.
The former "Today" anchor tells us what to expect from her new daytime talk show:
Ricki Lake is actually a veteran in the industry, having hosted an eponymous show for over a decade after it launched in 1993. Her new series -- called "The Ricki Lake Show" -- will be different though because, now 43, Lake says she has acquired a wisdom she didn't have when she was younger. So don't expect any Jerry Springer-style catfights this time around. "With aging you learn," Lake tells Yahoo! TV. "This time around, I know myself in a way that I couldn't possibly have in my 20s. So the show is really a reflection of the everywoman trying to figure it all out." And Lake, who got divorced and remarried in the time between her shows, says she's not going to pretend that she knows everything or has all the answers. "I'm not an expert," she says. "I certainly know how to surround myself with a group of people who are experts in their own field. We can learn from each other. Have a good time. Everyone is on the same level. I really am just me trying to do the best I can at having as much of a great life as possible."
Lake sizes up her daytime competition:
[Related: See Ricki Lake on Daytime in No Time]
Jeff Probst became a household name as host of "Survivor," and he will bring his go-get-'em attitude to his show, which will have an adventurous tone. "The overall idea is saying yes to the adventures in your life," the 50-year-old said during his summer press tour. "And I don't mean climbing a mountain. I mean being married, being a parent, dating, friendships. It's the courage to kiss somebody before you are ready, or move across the country for a new job, home, school. At the end of a life, this really is what defines our life -- those adventures." Each episode will feature an "Ambush Adventure," during which Jeff challenges an audience member to step outside their comfort zone to confront an issue in their life. There will also be a "Guys On The Couch" segment, where two male audience members come onstage and answer relationship questions from women in the audience. His wife, Lisa Ann Russell, who works on the series as a talent coordinator, will also be a regular face.
[Related: Behind the scenes at 'The Jeff Probst Show']
Couric, Lake, and Probst join another newcomer, Steve Harvey, whose self-titled show premiered September 3 and got off to an arguably strong start in the ratings. "My frankness and openness are going to be refreshing," he told the Chicago Sun-Times. "And it's a male perspective. That's missing in daytime television, having a man share with women some of the thoughts from a man's angle, but coming from a guy who's also very empowering for women. And I'm going to be pretty funny." He also wants his multi-topic shows, which will cover topics including relationships, money, and parenting, to focus on real people, not famous ones. "When you have regular people and not celebrities on these shows, it's more relatable," Harvey said.
Meanwhile, some returning shows are generating buzz as they start new seasons. When Anderson Cooper's show returns on September 10, it will have a new name, "Anderson Live," as well as a revamped format and set. The focus will shift more toward trending and breaking news, and he will have a revolving roster of celebrity co-hosts as well as big name guests, including Beyonce. Kelly Ripa's chat vehicle "Live!" returned last week with strong ratings, thanks to the announcement of her new co-host, Michael Strahan. Then there's "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," back for its 10th season. The show has been leading the pack as far as ratings, A-list guests, and memorable show moments, while also spotlighting issues close to her heart. When the show returns September 10, DeGeneres will have on Jordan Addison, the bullied college student from Virginia whose car was vandalized with homophobic slurs.
So why is there such an emergence of all these new daytime talk shows right at the same time? Well, one reason is the aforementioned O factor. The networks are all still looking for the next Oprah Winfrey whose show is going to dominate in the ratings. "In the year after Oprah was gone, no one really emerged to pick up the audience she released," Stephen Battaglio, who is the business editor for TV Guide, tells Yahoo! TV. "So there is an opportunity." And talk shows fit the bill because, "They provide a different kind of viewing experience," Battaglio continues. "It's people talking about what's happening now. It's companionship and conversation about what's going on in people's lives."
And then there is the soap opera factor. For years, daytime dramas ruled the lineup -- and when Luke and Laura said "I do" back in 1981, a record-setting 30 million Americans tuned in. But soap audiences have dwindled -- there are four left on the air -- and talk shows are largely viewed as cheaper and easier to produce than soaps, which require actors, writers, and sets, among things. However, that isn't always the case, as Soap Opera Digest columnist and Afternoon Delight: Why Soaps Still Matter author Carolyn Hinsey points out.
"The networks are being very shortsighted in canceling 40-plus year old soap operas for what have already proven to be lame talk shows like ABC's 'The Revolution,"' Hinsey tells Yahoo! TV. "There is no brand loyalty to a talk show, no reason to tune in, or DVR every day." As far as talk shows being less expensive, "Published reports say that Katie Couric's new show will cost $80 million, which is double the annual cost of any soap opera," she says. And the talk shows replacing soaps haven't exactly impressed in the ratings department. "Couric's talk show will take the place in the ABC lineup of the failed 'Revolution' and the low-rated 'Good Afternoon America,'" says Hinsey. "Well, 'One Life To Live' went off the air in January averaging over 3 million viewers, so Couric will need to score 6 million for her show to match that -- both financially and in the ratings. Good luck."
Ricki Lake knows she's going to have tough competition in what is an over-crowded market, but she says it's something she's dealt with before. "When I did my old show in 1993, between the 11 years that I was on the air over 100 [talk] shows came and went," she tells Yahoo! TV. "That's sort of the way it goes. It's cyclical. Some years there are a bunch that come out, and other years it won't be very many. I'm just focused on doing the best show that I can do for the viewers who grew up watching me, and hopefully they'll like what they see."