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The world of talk is anything but quiet.
With the May 12 news that Ellen DeGeneres will be signing off in spring 2022, stations and producers alike are busy plotting what’s next for those coveted late-afternoon time slots.
Some stations that now air Ellen will consider turning to lower-cost news programs rather than a talk show replacement — though such a decision isn’t without risk, and only in part because it’s not an easily reversible one. Others will weigh the options that will be presented in the coming weeks and months as talent, seeing a major opening, begins to throw their hats in the ring.
“There are celebrities out there who have said to themselves, ‘You know, I’d like to do a talk show one day,’ but have never gone there because they do their other things. Their agents are likely calling them now, saying, ‘You still want to do that talk show? It might be a good time to have that conversation,’” says Mort Marcus, co-president of Debmar-Mercury, the Lionsgate company behind syndication giants Wendy Williams and Family Feud.
Indeed, rumors of exploratory talent meetings being set up right now are plentiful, with insiders suggesting the top contenders are likely to be bold-faced names, even if syndication has shown its ability to break talent (see Williams). And while there’s no clear sense for what works in daytime — little is at the moment — execs stress the importance of a broadly entertaining, ad-friendly environment, as DeGeneres once offered.
For all those reasons, and a few more, Tiffany Haddish is widely seen as a dream get, and, per sources, is being heavily courted. After all, she’s already proved a knack for the format, having filled in for DeGeneres multiple times this season. Plus, touring comics like Haddish and DeGeneres are typically well-suited to the grind of daytime and its some 170 shows a year.
Haddish is said to have expressed interest in the day part, but it’s not clear she’s ready to jump in at this busy stage of her career. She’d have to forgo at least some features (and paychecks) to accommodate a talk show schedule, and simply backing up a Brink’s truck to make up for that lost income isn’t an option in the current climate.
“If the show works, she could make Ellen money, but you can’t give her Ellen money up front,” warns one exec of the tens of millions DeGeneres earns now in season 18. “Nobody would do that in this marketplace.”
Others say NBC, which has carried Ellen in major markets, might try to secure the slot for The Kelly Clarkson Show, though its tepid ratings of late could make that a tough sell. The company has inked deals with Meghan Trainor and Miley Cyrus, too, and could consider either for a daytime role. Cyrus showcased her skills earlier in the pandemic with a popular Instagram Live talk show, Bright Minded: Live with Miley. “This may not be how Ellen does it,” she said during show one, “but it’s how I do it.” Still, the risk, say syndication execs, is that Cyrus is too edgy for advertisers and too young for viewers.
“Remember,” says one, “there’s no one young watching.”
A version of this story appeared in the May 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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