Tuning In: Chatter About 'The Talk'

Brian Steinberg on the TV Season and the Future of the Industry

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PROGRAM GUIDE

Talking about "The Talk": CBS's new daytime talk show "The Talk" debuted Monday, and while many critics are comparing it to ABC's popular "The View," the fact is the shows don't run head-to-head. So let's dispense with the Julie Chen vs. Whoopi Goldberg tale-of-the-tape and get down to brass tacks.

'The Talk' co-hosts (l.) Leah Remini, Sara Gilbert, Sharon Osbourne, Holly Robinson Peete and Julie Chen
'The Talk' co-hosts (l.) Leah Remini, Sara Gilbert, Sharon Osbourne, Holly Robinson Peete and Julie Chen Credit: ABC
"The Talk" is one CBS effort to solve the many challenges of daytime TV: The sizable female population that once stayed at home to watch whatever the networks decided to put on the air -- typically soap operas, and, more recently, daytime talk shows -- isn't sitting in front of the TV screen anymore. That has spelled a slow downward spiral for many long-running soap operas, including two veteran members of the genre -- "Guiding Light" and "As The World Turns" -- that ran on CBS for decades.

In their place? Well, "The Talk" is focused on moms, though how many mothers will relate to the panel members of this program -- Ms. Chen, Sharon Osbourne, Leah Remini and Holly Robinson Peete among them -- remains to be seen. It's not fair to judge a show on its first episode, especially one that is going to run five days a week for weeks on end. "The Talk" needs to find its rhythm; yesterday's debut seemed to lack some spontaneity -- which could well come as the show's hosts find a rapport with each other. With six different hosts, that might well be tough; hence the show is broken up into segments that usually don't include everyone, except at the end.

Also worth noting: Someone ought to choose shots of the audience more carefully. At some points during the program, the camera lit upon people who seemed depressed or shell-shocked, not involved in the proceedings.

No matter how the show fares going forward, advertisers are certainly giving it a try. Among those lining up for the debut were Kellogg's Rice Krispies, General Mills' Bisquick, Progressive Insurance, Mattel's Fisher-Price and Boehringer Ingelheim's Dulcolax. Someone else is watching the show even more closely: Ms. Chen's husband, CBS CEO Leslie Moonves, who appeared in a taped segment yesterday wishing his wife well, but insisting if "The Talk" doesn't perform well that he'll cancel it.

CHANNEL SURFING

Cash before consumers?: The longer the retrans battle going on between News Corp. and Cablevision continues, the more the two companies run the risk of angering the people who watch their shows and broadcasts -- and the politicians who represent them.

In this interesting piece, The Wrap looks at some of the longer-term effects of this ongoing media fracas, which has left Cablevision subscribers without access to Fox programming -- including its football and baseball telecasts. "At stake are not only tens of millions of dollars in fees and lost advertising, but the specter of government intervention in what are becoming increasingly nasty carriage disputes," TheWrap says.

Bottom line: Media companies need to get paid fairly for their content, and cable concerns need to limit the costs they pass along to their consumers. They should also remember that viewers don't care a whit for the larger machinations of the media industry -- they just want to watch their shows. If they can't, it leaves a sour taste in their mouths that may not go away so quickly.

Tuning In is an ongoing series of commentaries by Ad Age TV Editor Brian Steinberg on the TV schedule, the ads it carries and changes within the industry. Follow him on Twitter.

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