TV Eye

Tower of Babble

Carson Daly, host of MTV's <i>Total Request Live</i>, premiered his  late-night talk show on NBC last week.
Carson Daly, host of MTV's Total Request Live, premiered his late-night talk show on NBC last week.

Picking out a talk show to watch is like making a selection from a 10-pound box of chocolates. If the talk shows of Ricki Lake, Sally Jessy Raphael, or Jerry Springer were chocolates, they'd be the kind you took a bite out of before realizing it was stuffed with some inedible chewy substance. Shows like Iyanla (NBC) and The Ananda Lewis Show (ABC) are airy and light, but quickly forgotten. Live With Regis and Kelly (ABC), The View (ABC), and The Oprah Winfrey Show (NBC) have a more lasting flavor, but that's not saying much.

There are even talk shows that make fun of other talk shows. Primetime Glick (Comedy Central) and Talk Soup (E!) are like those chocolate-covered pretzels: unusual, a little salty, but very pleasing.

Then, there are the late-night talk shows, the dark chocolates laid on your pillow and savored before sleep. The Late Show With David Letterman (CBS) is my favorite, followed by Late Night With Conan O'Brien (NBC). There's also The Late Late Show With Craig Kilborn (CBS) and NBC's The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. Of course, watching Leno brings back memories of biting into a chocolate bunny when you were a kid, only to discover that the inside was hollow and the chocolate tasteless and waxy.

With a box of chocolates, you know none of them are good for you, but what the heck. You take your pick, vowing to quit after one, and before you know it, you've had another and another. That's not exactly the case with a talk show. It has to capture you in the first few moments, or else it's off to another channel, or sleep. I recently watched three talk shows for the first time, two recent newcomers and one new to me. Although they all had a distinctive flavor, I found myself asking, where's the Ghirardelli of the box? The show with a slow, melt-in-your-mouth experience?

Oh Drama! (BET): This show is what The View would be if Star Jones picked out some homegirls to talk, no holds barred. Each show features co-hosts Vanessa Bell Calloway, Kym Whytley, and Julissa Marquez, along with invited celebrity guests, all riffing on a theme. Money, relationships, and family matters are recurring topics. A guest expert punctuates the show near the end, offering sage advice or reinforcing earlier comments. When the mix of topic and guests are just right, the show perks. But when the mix is off, the show is a snoozer. Oh Drama! airs on Wednesday and Thursdays, 8pm, on BET.

Good Day Live (Fox): Austin is one of seven cities chosen to see how well the Los Angeles-based morning show does outside Tinseltown (there, it's called Good Day L.A.). What's good about this gabfest is how each of the test cities gets a little airtime, as in a segment featuring the best places in each city to find upscale make-up. What's bad is the incessant chatter of the three hosts, who sound like they should be on one of those morning-rush-hour radio shows. Dorothy Lucey and Jillian Barberie look like they're ready to club hop and talk like they've been mainlining caffeine; Steve Edwards, presumably there to bring some civility to the show, looks like a mortician seated between the tousle-haired Lucey and Barderie. Last time I watched, the hosts did offer one highly amusing moment. After an hour of mind-numbing blather, the show took a serious turn when they got news of the verdict from the Sarah Jane Olsen trial. The trio put on their best "serious newscaster" expressions to report the news, which was like watching a drunk trying to convince you he was sober. If I ever watch the show again, it's because I'm strapped to a chair with my eyes propped open with toothpicks. The show airs weekdays at 1pm on local affiliate KTBC.

Last Call With Carson Daly (NBC): This show has promise. This newest stab at late-night talk features a one-on-one format reminiscent of the old Tom Snyder shows, with memorable moments of Steve Allen or Jack Paar. Daly is charming, but he's no raconteur. And it seems if you're going to interview one person for the entire evening (sometimes two, but always one-on-one), you'd better be ready to hold your own. On the premiere episode, Daly interviewed the multitalented Alicia Keys, who turned out to be not only a musical guest but also a woman with something to say. Her tastes, her influences, and her take on the music industry were enormously interesting. Unfortunately, Daly was not equipped to take the interview to a more sophisticated level. When Keys played some Fats Waller on the piano, it was clear Daly had no idea what she was playing. Instead of asking (or perhaps caring), he veered the interview toward the lowbrow: "Whose music makes you horny?" Not that I'm not interested in that answer, but Daly could benefit from broadening his knowledge past contemporary popular culture.

I'll never stay up to watch Last Call, but I will tape it to check in from time to time. Last Call With Carson Daly airs weeknights at 12:45am on NBC.

Austinite Factors Into NBC Reality Show

Austinite Lana Elhassan appears on the Jan. 28 episode of Fear Factor. While she can't reveal if she won, she does say "I did my personal best, completed all three challenges, and either won or did not win!" Fear Factor airs Mondays, 7pm, on NBC.

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