Former Real Housewives of NYC star Bethenny Frankel is the latest celeb to enter the competitive talk-show arena, where the chances of success hover between slim and none. If Bethenny doesn’t make the grade, the show will join a long list of failed talk shows that proved even big stars, top talent and great guests are no guarantee anyone will watch.
The David Letterman Show (June 1980-October 1980)
A favourite of Johnny Carson, David Letterman’s career was heating up when NBC gave him his own daytime talk show in 1980. The show was a spectacular flop that was cancelled after 18 disastrous weeks, with Letterman’s acerbic wit, offbeat interviews and quirky antics proving to be a poor fit with viewers who were still having their morning coffee. In 1982, NBC gave Letterman the timeslot after The Tonight Show, and Late Night With David Letterman — which was pretty much the same show he had been doing in the morning — became a huge hit.
The Tempestt Bledsoe Show (1995-1996)
A few years after The Cosby Show, former Huxtable daughter Tempestt Bledsoe launched a daytime talk show that offered the typical mix of self-help experts, beauty makeovers and hot-button topics. Bledsoe had clearly been watching some Oprah, but the Cosby kid came across like a watered-down Winfrey wannabe, and low ratings led to cancellation after a single year.
The Keenan Ivory Wayans Show (1997-1998)
The driving force behind In Living Color, Keenan Ivory Wayans intended his late-night syndicated talk show to fill the hip, urban niche left vacant after The Arsenio Hall Show went off the air. Featuring a comedy monologue, an all-female band, commercial parodies between segments and even comedy sketches (guest Samuel L. Jackson, for example, appeared as his Pulp Fiction character), the show was ambitious enough, but was ultimately sunk by Wayans’ weak interviewing skills — as demonstrated in this clip of Wayans’ inane banter with Michael Jordan.
The Howie Mandel Show (1998-1999)
Before his resurrection on Deal or No Deal and America’s Got Talent, Howie Mandel’s career was floundering when he launched this 1998 daytime stinker. Toning down the over-the-top antics that made him famous in the first place, the suddenly bland comic bantered weakly with B-list celebrities in a vanilla hour of novelty acts and parenting tips that miraculously sucked all the personality out of its host. It lasted one season.
The Magic Hour (June 1998-September 1998)
With Prince percussionist Shelia E. as his bandleader, the former L.A. Lakers superstar was arguably television’s worst late-night talk show host, awkwardly fumbling his way through lame monologues and conducting fawning, suck-up interviews that made Jay Leno look like Edward R. Murrow. The show was a train wreck, and its harshest critic was Howard Stern, who gleefully mocked Johnson’s ineptitude on his radio show; in a last-ditch attempt to avoid cancellation, desperate producers invited Stern on the show to boost ratings. The stunt worked — for one night, when The Magic Hour achieved magic ratings while Stern hijacked the show by grilling the HIV-positive athlete about his sex life and delivering a musical performance punctuated by flatulence. Without Stern, ratings returned to normal and the show was axed soon after.
The Martin Short Show (1998-2000)
Like Letterman’s daytime flop, SCTV/SNL funnyman Martin Short’s 1998 talk show was entertaining but ultimately too weird for daytime television. This was especially true of Short’s new creation, obese entertainment reporter Jiminy Glick, who conducted painfully awkward interviews with celebrity guests who seemed genuinely puzzled by what was going on. After the show’s cancellation, Glick returned to wreak Hollywood havoc in a far better vehicle, Primetime Glick, which ran for two seasons on Comedy Central.
The Sharon Osbourne Show (2003-2004)
Launched soon after the reality-show success of The Osbournes, the opinionated wife, mother and rock-star manager seemed a natural choice for daytime talk, but the show wound up being indistinguishable from every other daytime talk show. It didn’t help that The Ellen DeGeneres Show debuted around the same time, which quickly became a daytime sensation while Sharon slipped into talk-show oblivion. Although Sharon only lasted a year, Osbourne subsequently hosted her own hit U.K. talk show a few years later, and is about to begin her third year on CBS’s daytime chatfest The Talk.
The Tony Danza Show (2004-2006)
Who’s the Boss star Tony Danza hosted two low-rated seasons of this milquetoast chat show, in which he vainly attempted Regis-and-Kelly-style banter with co-host Erika Vetrini (a former contestant on The Apprentice) who had vanished by season two. Each episode ended with Danza belting out a tune accompanied by his in-studio pianist — a gimmick nobody but Danza wanted to see.
The Megan Mullally Show (September 2006-January 2007)
After eight seasons on Will & Grace, Megan Mullally felt she had more to offer than playing ditzy socialite Karen Walker, and this daytime talk show was set up to showcase her actual personality and her talent as a singer. Unfortunately, the singing came across as self-indulgent, her interview skills left a lot to be desired and viewers clearly preferred Karen to Megan; the show was axed a few months after it premiered.
The Rosie Show (October 2011-March 2012)
After a lackluster first year on the air, the Oprah Winfrey Network needed a big boost, and Winfrey lured former daytime queen Rosie O’Donnell to host a new daily talk show on OWN. Broadcast from Oprah’s former Chicago studio, The Rosie Show combined game-show elements with celebrity interviews and audience interaction. The show was an instant disaster that started badly and just got worse, averaging a mere 186,000 U.S. viewers and hitting an all-time low of 60,000 for an episode. By January, the show completely changed its format, ditching the gimmicks and having O’Donnell tackle a single topic in each show. Ratings dropped even lower and the show was cancelled in March.