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For the entirety of Hadassah’s life, the 41-year-old was unsure if the person she grew up knowing as her dad was actually her biological father. Hadassah’s parents, Rutha and Shawn, had her when they were teenagers, and because of the tumultuous relationship between them and their families, there were rumors throughout Hadassah’s childhood about the truth behind Shawn’s paternity status.
This is why the three of them shared the stage as guests on The Karamo Show, hosted by one of the Emmy-nominated co-stars of Netflix’s Queer Eye reboot, Karamo Brown, in an episode that taped on a cold December morning in Stamford, Connecticut. Hadassah wanted to confront her parents about her past trauma and take a DNA test to put the issue to bed once and for all.
Viewers have seen this “Who’s the father?” schtick before on daytime television; it was the bread and butter of shows like Jerry Springer and Maury. Brown says the difference between him and his predecessors is that he seeks resolution rather than shouting matches. But given the conflict-seeking nature inherent to the show’s format, it will be a challenge for him to distinguish himself from their exploitative legacy.
“When I see someone’s drama, I can see their pain, and if I can see their pain, I can heal them,” Brown said backstage in his dressing room. “I’m never going to walk away without giving them something real to make them feel healed.”
Cameras followed Hadassah as she walked backstage and appeared to have a panic attack and the talk show host navigated the chaos on camera. He quelled the anger between Rutha and Shawn and then calmly spoke to Hadassah backstage, convincing her to return to the stage. The audience anxiously waited to hear the results of DNA test results, even though Shawn told Hadassah that regardless of what the information said, “You always will be my daughter.” In the end, Hadassah read a card out loud to the audience, revealing that Shawn is, in fact, her father. By the end of the episode, all of the adults hugged, held hands and made peace with each other.
“There was such anger and hurt and everything when they first came out, and we’ve seen that happen so many times where obviously they have more work to do other than what just happened right here,” executive producer Kerry Shannon said. “But it’s such a huge breakthrough that happens on set with Karamo.”
In recent years, there’s been a shift in daytime television, with an exodus of the old guard making way for new hosts with fresh voices. Jerry Springer taped his last show in 2018, Maury Povich in 2022. After 21 years on the air, Dr. Phil is coming to an end this season. Ellen DeGeneres left her long-running talk show in May 2022, just months before The Wendy Williams Show went dark following a 14-year reign.
Brown was tapped by NBC to take over for Povich’s daytime spot after he won over viewers as a guest host on Maury. Karamo is nationally syndicated and produced by NBCUniversal Syndication Studios; the show, which airs on weekdays, the time of day depending on local listings, is averaging about 600,000 daily viewers, with the show’s Instagram account landing at about 300,000 followers. Meanwhile, back in 2020 NBCUniversal reported that Maury, which consistently ranked at the top of daytime ratings, averaged 1.7 million daily viewers.
Brown is one of several hosts attempting to elbow their way into the hole left by the departed titans of daytime TV. Last year, Jennifer Hudson started filming her talk show in the same studio and with the same executive producers as DeGeneres, and Sherri Shepherd took over Wendy Williams’ time slot with her new talk show in September 2022. New kids on the block Drew Barrymore and Kelly Clarkson have seen successful ratings on their respective talk shows; earlier this year, The Drew Barrymore Show was renewed for a fourth season on CBS, with the network saying the show averages 1.21 million viewers. The Kelly Clarkson Show has also been renewed through 2025, and according to NBCUniversal, the show averages 1.3 million viewers. Karamo grew its viewership by 18 percent from when it first appeared on air, but it still trails behind shows like Drew Barrymore, Kelly Clarkson, Sherri and The Jennifer Hudson Show by about 50 percent.
Fans are most familiar with Brown from his time on Netflix’s Queer Eye, but he’s had a long career in unscripted television. Back in 2004, Brown was the first openly gay Black man cast on a reality show when he appeared on MTV’s The Real World: Philadelphia. Following his time on The Real World, Brown worked in social services for almost a decade. He reentered the world of television in 2016 when he was a castmember on The Next 15, hosted MTV’s Are You The One: Second Chances in 2017 and even competed on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars in 2019. That same year, he also published a memoir, Karamo: My Story of Embracing Purpose, Healing, and Hope, which aligns with the values he’s hoping to embody with his new talk show.
Brown says he’s trying to differentiate himself from Povich and Springer, who died last week, yet the show’s genesis and its staff indicate more continuity than disruption. The Karamo Show, which was recently renewed for a second season, premiered a few weeks after Povich retired, in September 2022, and tapes at the Rich Forum Theater in Stamford, Connecticut, the same location where Maury and Jerry Springer filmed. Plus, Brown’s showrunners and executive producers are veterans in the world of daytime: executive producer Shannon worked for Jerry Springer for 27 years, serving as EP from 2015 until 2018, and co-executive producer Gloria Harrison-Hall got her start on The Jenny Jones Show before working as a senior producer on Maury for two decades.
“The ins and outs of the storytelling, how the guests are from all different walks of life, and just the fast-paced [nature] of how many shows we do, that all has prepared me [for The Karamo Show],” Shannon said, adding that the show’s topics and format are a continuation of conflict-centric daytime TV that viewers are already accustomed to. “There’s nothing we haven’t come across, either one of us, [Harrison-Hall] with her Maury experience, me with my Jerry experience, with our potential problems that guests arrive with or things like that. We’re always prepared like, ‘Oh, this has happened before.’”
While Brown recognizes the shoes he’s filling and is respectful of the hosts who have come before him, he doesn’t want to follow in their same legacies.
“I respect Maury Povich more than you even understand. I think he’s a great man, he changed the culture, but Maury wasn’t doing resolutions,” Brown explained. “[The guests] fought and then once they got a result it was, ‘Go [figure it out] on your own,’ and it worked for a certain time. But it’s  and people need healing, people need language to understand how to be better in their lives. You know, ‘gaslighting’ was the word of the year and it’s because we’re now waking up and need to understand what’s going on in our lives, and I’m in the right space at the right time to be able to show people that.”
Matthew Cafritz, who explored conflict on daytime television as a producer of the A&E docuseries Cultureshock, said talk show hosts like Springer and Povich were unapologetic about their legacies and pointed to audiences who responded positively to the format and content of their shows.
“People can’t look away sometimes when we’re seeing something that’s outrageous or jarring, and it created this genre where it was necessary to always up the ante in terms of how salacious it was,” Cafritz said. “It played to the cheap seats in a way to be like, here is human behavior at its worst and you get to watch it. It’s a total train wreck if you’re taking it at face value, and it’s kind of gross and sad, the stuff they were positioning as entertainment.”
As far as Karamo’s role in the cycle of daytime television, Cafritz said he thinks Brown brings a level of diversity, representation and thoughtfulness to the genre in terms of “who holds that court, which is a step in the right direction,” but they’re still feeding the same machine.
“There’s the same salacious, chaotic sort of confrontational and icky behavior in entertainment, and the provocative stuff clearly still finds its way into these types of formats,” Cafritz said. “I think the unfortunate reality is that, especially in a risk-averse business like the entertainment industry, I don’t think in daytime television those tried-and-true episode ideas will go by the wayside. The kings of daytime TV were like, ‘You can’t be ridiculous enough, you can always be more ridiculous,’ and that causes a lot more harm than entertainment should ever be capable of doing.”
When asked how he felt about being compared to Povich when the show first launched, Brown says he “hated it” and it made him “really mad.” But over the course of filming season one and seeing how his guests have benefitted from his advice, Brown has come to appreciate the comparison.
“Now I take it as a badge of honor because he set up the foundation for me to be able to say, this is what family conflict is,” Brown said. “He set the foundation for having what it means to have these relationships be seen on TV and I thank him for that. I thank Jerry for the chaos that he caused because now I know how to deal with it. I’ve seen it, and now I’m the next generation.”
Brown wants to distance himself from daytime hosts who have been known to capitalize on other people’s trauma for entertainment, but that isn’t to say The Karamo Show isn’t relying on some of the same sensationalist tropes. If you visit The Karamo Show’s YouTube page, you’ll see videos titled “Is My Baby Dad Having An Affair With My Brother’s Fiancée!?” and ”Did My Dad Live Around the Corner All My Life?” There’s also a regular segment called “Unlock the Phone.” This is when a “phone investigator” behind the scenes retrieves guests’ deleted text messages, photos and other intel with their permission in order to “find out the truth” about a topic plaguing another guest, typically if they think someone is lying.
Brown compared what he’s doing with The Karamo Show to how Netflix rebooted Queer Eye back in 2018. He said the original cast “did a fucking amazing job” but he and his other castmates were tasked with revamping the early-aughts show for a new generation. This is the same thing he’s trying to do with daytime television.
“Maury, thanks, girl. You did it. Great,” he said. “But now I’m gonna evolve it.”
Brown believes his life experiences and his professional history in social work and social services make him equipped to not only help his guests, but to relate to them as well. Not long after appearing on The Real World, Brown learned he was the father of a 10-year-old son. Before he came out as gay, when he was 16 years old, his last high school girlfriend got pregnant and didn’t tell him, and the jarring news a decade later was unexpected. He ultimately successfully petitioned for full custody of his son, as well as his son’s stepbrother. Brown has also talked about his oldest son’s addiction issues; on Karamo, he opened up about how he found his son in the middle of a drug overdose two years ago. Brown wants his guests to know that he genuinely understands where they’re coming from.
“My guests go through stuff and I’m like, I get it,” he said. “I got the same baby-mama drama, I got the same relationship issues, I know what it’s like to have a kid almost die. I wish that I could pretend like I had an easy life, but I’ve been transparent about it and that’s what made me want to do this.”
Executive producers said their goal is to tell compelling and relatable stories in which viewers will be able to see pieces of themselves, their friends and their family.
“People watch Instagram stories and TikTok stories, and people are so interested and nosy with other people’s lives, so I think we’re just trying to reach people that are interested in storytelling,” Shannon said.
According to Harrison-Hall, people are comfortable coming to Brown with their personal issues and dissecting them in front of a live audience and camera crew because, despite the difficulties involved, Brown doesn’t alienate anyone and “hears both sides.”
“The guests and viewers come here and they know, ‘He’s going to hear me.’ He’s someone who’s going to listen and understand,” she said.
“And isn’t that all someone wants?” Shannon jumped in. “To feel heard?”
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