Bessey Talks ‘The Talk’

When CBS daytime  show The Talk premieres on Oct. 18, don’t expect any of the guests to be promoting their books, movies or their own TV shows. And if they can’t open up to the show’s six co-hosts and express real personal thoughts about their own lives and topics of the day, they’re not coming on the show.

Brad Bessey, the show’s executive producer, who spent 15 years at Entertainment Tonight, most recently as co-executive producer, says he’s already rejected some well-known guests (he declined to name names) because he didn’t think they could be “real.”

“I want this show to empower women,” Bessey said. “I want this to be a host-driven show, where guests and the audience can have open and honest conversations with the show’s co-hosts.”

The Talk is the brainchild of Sara Gilbert, actress and relatively new mother, who brought the idea to CBS and who will be one of the six co-hosts on the show. The others include Julie Chen, Holly Robinson Peete, Sharon Osbourne, Leah Remini and Marissa Jaret Winokur.
Gilbert, along with John Redman, is also an executive producer of the show.

But it’s been Bessey who’s been primarily charged for the past two months with trying to bring Gilbert’s vision to life.

“I want to shape television around these women; I don’t want to have television shape them,” said Bessey. “We’re going to have 200 live audience members each day, and the set is very close to the audience. We’re going to talk to both the studio audience and to viewers at home via Twitter, Facebook and the Internet. We want to have interaction and live feedback.”

Bessey said guests will come from all walks of life, and both female and male perspectives will be explored. However, the core audience target is mothers, with all the show’s co-hosts having children of their own ranging in age from  infant to adult.

The Talk will air live from Los Angeles at 11 a.m. each day and fill the live East Coast 2 p.m. time period previously occupied by cancelled soap opera As the World Turns. It will be televised via tape at 2 p.m. in the other time zones.

While Bessey would not reveal all the details of the show, he said there will be a couch and kitchen area where segments and interviews will take place. Winokur will work outside the studio conducting interviews with women on the street about various topics related to family and children.

While no one has seen a pilot of the show, most media buyers seem intrigued.

“It certainly has a better chance than a game show,” said Jackie Kulesza, svp, broadcast activation director at Starcom. “And even with the success of The View, there is room for another show of this kind. CBS’ target of reaching out to mothers is interesting because there are lots of products out there that want to reach that audience…I see it as a good opportunity for our clients.”

Brent Poer, senior vp, managing director at MediaVest, said daytime broadcast has been in need of reinvention, and The Talk could help if it feels unique from The View. “It can’t be the same type show,” he said.

Billie Gold, vp, director of programming research at Carat, said that while she believes the show will be “a good synergistic environment for women’s product advertisers,” she is not sure the show’s ratings will come close to the levels of The View, which draws about 3 million viewers daily.

Bessey counters that The View has been on the air for 13 years and is an established show, while The Talk will need some time to find its audience. He said the show will be a work in progress and will evolve as the co-hosts spend more time together and their relationships take form.

“I’m not looking to copy other talk shows,” he said. “I’m looking at this show to be our own piece of clay and to shape it as we go along.”