CHICAGO (AP) — Jenny McCarthy may have made a home in the Chicago suburbs, but the 40-year-old mom of a 10-year-old son hasn't lost her goofy, party girl-persona.
The former Playboy playmate and TV host says Hugh Hefner's 1970s-era "Playboy After Dark" is the inspiration her new weekly VH1 talk show, "The Jenny McCarthy Show," which debuts Friday night. She'll commute to New York to film the show from her home outside her native Chicago.
"In a perfect world the dream is to be as close as possible to my little boy so I can be the mom I want to be and to be the person on TV I want to be," McCarthy said in an interview this week with The Associated Press while she was preparing for her new weekly show.
After years of unproductive development deals McCarthy finally finds herself with her much-desired talk show. But she also finds herself a single mom concerned about her son.
McCarthy was outspoken about autism treatments after her son was diagnosed and wrote a book detailing her search for a cure. She has advocated special diets, supplements, metal detox and delayed vaccines as treatments. She says her son no longer suffers from autism.
But now she says she's focused on her foundation, Generation Rescue, and making sure efforts go toward treatment for families that can't afford it.
"That's all I've been promoting," she said. "I haven't talked about vaccines in four years and don't plan to. I've made enough noise and now I feel like the attention needs to go toward treatment."
McCarthy decided to move back to Chicago last May after realizing her son's life in Los Angeles wouldn't be the same as her childhood, she said.
"There was no catching lightning bugs in the backyard," McCarthy said. "Within five days I made the decision to pack up and get out of there."
McCarthy is in a situation she thinks many of her potential viewers will appreciate. She's grown up with responsibilities, but she doesn't want to stop having a night of fun.
"The Jenny McCarthy Show" — complete with Hefner-inspired go-go dancers, bizarrely paired celebrity guests and pop culture chatter — is her girls night out, she said.
"I wish there were more of them," McCarthy said. "But because I'm a single mom work comes first. I definitely make a night out with my friends once in a while."
The result, McCarthy says, will be a show with two bizarrely paired celebrity guests, for example tenor Josh Groban and aspiring rapper Joseline Hernandez from "Love and Hip-Hop: Atlanta." The guests and McCarthy will do interviews, maybe play charades or trivia games and talk about pop culture.
The target audience is what VH1 and McCarthy call "adultsters," or hip adults who they're hoping will be attracted to McCarthy's wacky, witty comedy. In promos for the show she's nibbling on olives and holding a martini.
"It's that great generation of us who had to grow up, but still want to go out and have fun," McCarthy said.
McCarthy fits the mold. That's why VH1 pursued her when the network decided to try out late night television, said Jeff Olde, the network's executive vice president for original programming and development.
"She's a mom, she's an author, she has responsibilties in her life," Olde said. "But she also loves to party. She loves to have a great time. That's the spirit we wanted for her show."
A talk show seemed a natural next step for McCarthy, who has regularly appeared in movies and on TV but never really found a home.
"There was a problem with studios how to write for me," McCarthy said. "It's a complex kind of character I am because I'm built like a bunny but I talk like a dude."
Now McCarthy lives in a house on the same suburban street with her best friend. She has reembraced her hometown, writing a column for the Chicago Sun-Times and even dating Chicago Bear Brian Urlacher for a short time last year. Her cousins and parents are nearby.
If her new show finds success McCarthy wants to ditch commuting to New York and tape in Chicago instead.
"If Oprah was smart enough to do a show in the heartland of America I'm hoping one day this show can be there," she said.
Follow AP reporter Caryn Rousseau on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/carynrousseau