Tuesday, November 10, 2015

TV Talk 1995

Before the late '80's, daytime talk shows were a man's business. Despite the fact that women made up the bulk of the daytime audience, they seemed to gravitate towards shows featuring men. Dick Cavett, Mike Douglas and Phil Donahue ruled the airwaves. That all changed when Oprah Winfrey came on the scene. While Oprah took the wind out of Phil Donahue's sails, it was a multitude of new shows that eventually took him down. The relative newcomer Ricki Lake, with her raunchy topics and young audience, put the final nail in the Donahue Show's coffin. As Phil Donahue bowed out, it seemed that daytime audiences were now up for grabs. A cavalcade of new shows were introduced, some trying to capture Ricki Lake's success.

Like Ricki Lake, Carnie Wilson was marginally known by viewers and struggled with her weight. She was seen as someone who could bring in young urban women who remembered her stint with the singing group Wilson Phillips and could identify with her. Unfortunately, she could not attract a large enough audience and was quickly cancelled.

So why not try a young woman who had starred in the biggest show of the 1980's? Tempestt Bledsoe, who had grown up before America's eyes on the then recently ended sitcom The Cosby Show, threw her hat into the ring. Ms. Bledsoe's show featured the same sort of topics that Ricki Lake covered- ladies confronting cheating men and the ladies they were cheating with, people confronting others who engaged in activities they disagreed with and so-called "hootchie-mamas". Her television father Bill Cosby (who we now know lived in a glass house) threw stones at the show, expressing his disappointment in her choice of a job. While her target audience probably didn't care about what a cantankerous old man thought about the show, not enough of them tuned in to matter. The show lasted one season.

So if a former singer and the star of a long since faded sitcom wouldn't work out, why not try the star of one of the hottest shows at the time? Beverly Hills, 90210 was still doing quite well and one of its stars had just left the show in order to try something new. Too bad that someone was Gabrielle Carteris. In addition to being the nerdy female lead of the show, Ms. Carteris actually was closer in age to the viewers' parents than she was to the young viewers themselves. Instead of the youthful Ricki Lake, viewers instead felt like they were watching the motherly Sally Jessy Raphael. The show also lasted just one season.