'America Now' Hosts Leeza Gibbons, Bill Rancic Preview Season 4's Big Stories (Exclusive Videos)

9:42 AM PST 09/10/2013 by Kimberly Nordyke
Bill Rancic and Leeza Gibbons

"In three minutes, we can go from [a report on] the national registry for organ donations to 101 uses for peanut butter," Gibbons tells THR of the newsmagazine's wide-ranging topics.

Bill Rancic says he's come a long way since his first season hosting the syndicated newsmagazine America Now.

The reality star and TV personality was joined by Leeza Gibbons during the show's sophomore season three years ago, and he self-deprecatingly quips that he's surprised she stuck around beyond day one.

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"I look back to the first show I did with Leeza, and I'm shocked she didn't walk off the set," he told The Hollywood Reporter during a recent visit to the series' Hollywood set. "I was certainly a work in progress in the beginning. I like to think I've come a long way." He added: "If that was my wife [E! News' Giuliana Rancic], she would have come home that night and said, 'I'm not going back there.'"

Gibbons, who reveals that Giuliana actually was on set once having a bit of fun by holding up "judges' scores" evaluating her husband, insists that Rancic is just being modest.

"Next to Dick Clark, Bill is the most efficient colleague with whom I've ever worked," she said. "He has great respect for time because he has a lot of demands on him, and so do I."

Replied Rancic: "I don't know where to go from there. I can't compare Leeza to anyone because she's at the top of the bar."

The pair -- whose genuine admiration and respect for each other is evident in their easygoing banter and exchanges like the aforementioned -- actually met nearly 10 years ago when she was interviewing Rancic, who became the first winner of The Apprentice back in 2004, for her radio show, Hollywood Confidential. Now, she says, Rancic is sort of like a "kid brother" to her.

Their show, America Now -- which touts itself as featuring "news you can really use" -- returns this week for its fourth season, with new episodes covering topics ranging from sextortion and credit discrimination to shopping for bridal dresses and flea market finds (The Hollywood Reporter has the first look at two of this week's segments -- Rancic's grilling advice and Gibbons' hairstyling tips -- at the end of this post).

Since its debut in 2010, the series has been growing. Not only did it evolve from a weekend show into a strip, but it's since expanded its reach to 80 percent of the country, airing in all top 10 markets, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, and 17 out of the top 20 (the show hails from ITV Studios America, Raycom Media and Trifecta). And Gibbons and Rancic have become pros at turning around episodes; in fact, they are able to shoot as many as 20 shows in one day.

For Gibbons -- a broadcasting veteran whose credits range from host of Entertainment Tonight and Extra to star of her own talk show, Leeza -- America Now represents a bit of a switch from the celebrity-centric shows she's been a part of in the past.

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"It's the magazine format that I think is so comfortable for me," she says. "But I think the production of the show is different for me because we're topical and timely, but not day-and-date topical. That gives us a lot of flexibility to explore what interests us, and Bill and I have a lot of autonomy in terms of the kinds of stories we want to cover."

Among her favorite stories are a recent piece she shot on self-defense for women as well as another on brain injuries in kids playing football -- a topic that hit close to home as Gibbons' high school sophomore son recently suffered a concussion while on the field. (On her wish list is a segment that sees GoPro cameras attached to a high school athletes' head to investigate what really happens on the field from the students' point of view. But not her son, she adds quickly with concern: "He can't take another injury.") Incidentally, Rancic also was invested in that particular story as he suffered his own head injury while a very young child and, for America Now, was able to undergo a brain scan to see what kind of permanent damage he had sustained.

"We've been able to do a lot of stories that are near and dear to our heart," Rancic says. "And when you're passionate about it, you can take it to the next level."

Rancic also recently spent a day with the U.S. Coast Guard for stories on water safety and survival. As part of the report, he got to fly with La’Shanda Holmes, the first African-American female helicopter pilot in the Coast Guard. He's also planning to spend a day riding along with the Los Angeles Police Department for a separate report.

Some of the show's most popular features are the "product tests," wherein devices like the "Wraptastic" -- which purports to be an easier way to rip off foil or plastic wrap -- are put to the test. Producers often take suggestions from viewers not only on the products to test but other stories to cover. For example, a segment on how to tell if your kid is counterfeiting money on a home printer and another on the rising popularity of putting vodka directly into one's eyeballs were inspired by viewers.

"A lot of those come from parents who are just at the end of their rope," Gibbons said. "[The show is] all about giving power to the viewers and adding value to their lives."

Other upcoming topics this season include how to defend yourself against dog attacks; apps to help you find your lost phone; how to banish morning neck pain; the dangers of free Wi-Fi when traveling; new uses for old clothes hangers; 401(k) management tips; and why getting a tan could trigger a dangerous addiction.

"This show is different than anything out there because we're providing stories and information people can use immediately," Rancic said. "If people give us 30 minutes a day, we're gonna give them tips to improve their lives, to help with their finances, gardening -- you name it. We run the gamut."

Added Gibbons: "In three minutes, we can go from [a report on] the national registry for organ donations to 101 uses for peanut butter."

"I bring this stuff home, and my wife thinks I'm the smartest person in the world," Rancic quipped.

America Now airs Monday-Friday (with back-to-back half-hour episodes in several markets); check local listings or the show's website for airtimes.

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