The new talk show that Warner Bros. and executive producer Ellen DeGeneres hopes to take into syndication next year is launching a six-week run on six Fox O&Os next week. Host Bethenny Frankel says the show won’t be Ellen 2.0: “I’m edgy and inappropriate — Ellen isn’t. I’m not trying to do what Ellen does. I’m doing what I do.” That includes talking about relationships, sex, marriage, money, how to get your kids to eat properly and balancing work and a stable home life.
It’ll be a few more months before viewers get their first glimpse of this fall’s four new syndicated talk shows, but next Monday viewers in six markets will get a good, long look at one new talker that is not scheduled to make its formal debut for another year.
Bethenny, with reality TV star Bethenny Frankel, started taping in front of an audience yesterday in Los Angeles and will kick off a six-week test on the Fox O&Os in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Dallas, Phoenix and Minneapolis.
If the show performs well, it will go on a year-long hiatus as distributor Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution tries to secure the clearances necessary for a national rollout in fall 2013.
Warner Bros. has high hopes for Bethenny, which has the blessing and backing of Ellen DeGeneres, who has made Frankel a regular guest on her own hit Warner Bros. talk show Ellen and who is executive producing Bethenny.
Aside from her appearances on Ellen, Frankel is well known for her work in reality TV — Bravo’s Bethenny Ever After and Real Housewives of New York City and ABC’s short-lived Skating With the Stars.
She is also an author of self-help books including Naturally Thin: Unleash Your Skinnygirl and Free Yourself from a Lifetime of Dieting. In March 2011, she sold her company Skinnygirl Cocktails to Beam Inc.
Of course, Frankel has high hopes, too. “The show is about having the conversations you have with your girlfriends when men aren’t around,” Frankel says in an interview as she made final preparation for the taping last week.
“You’re talking about relationships, sex, marriage, money, how to get your kids to eat properly and balancing work and a stable home life. We’ll talk about topics as deep as divorce and having had a complicated childhood, to something as light as ‘wax or shave?’ ”
Frankel says she will share the stage with regular people, on their own or sitting on panels, as well as celebrities. “I’m finding celebrities who have something to say about the topics we’re talking about.”
The show will also have occasional musical guests and taped on-the-street segments. “In the field pieces, we’re talking to women about topics like divorce, dating younger men and we’re talking to couples about things like having a vanilla sex life but wanting a more interesting flavor,” she says.
Bethenny is a kind of a spinoff of Ellen, but it’s not Ellen 2.0 “I can be silly and I like to have fun,” Frankel says. “But this is a different show from Ellen. I’m edgy and inappropriate — Ellen isn’t. I’m not trying to do what Ellen does. I’m doing what I do.”
Hilary Estey McLoughlin, president of Telepictures Productions, the Warner Bros. unit that is producing the show, says rather than open with jokes as Ellen does, Frankel will simply engage the audience on topical issues.
McLoughlin shares a couple of other details about the show. “We’re going to have some behind-the-scenes peeks into the making of the show, and we have a confessional booth where audience members are going to talk about topics they haven’t revealed before.”
Although Frankel began taping episodes yesterday and segments a few weeks ago, Bethenny has been in the works for much longer than that. The idea for the show was sparked during a Frankel appearance on Ellen a year ago.
“That’s when I started to talk to Ellen about producing the show,” Frankel says. “It has been great having Ellen give the show her stamp of approval, which she had never done before…. Of course, she’ll be a guest on the show.”
Last summer, Frankel taped a pilot for Telepictures that Warner Bros. pitched to stations for fall 2012.
A crowded marketplace prevented Bethenny from moving forward this year. Set to debut in September are four other major new talk show contenders — Disney-ABC’s Katie, Twentieth Television’s Ricki, CBS Television Distribution’s Jeff Probst and NBC Universal’s Steve Harvey.
But Fox TV Stations remained interested in Bethenny.
“They are the one station group that really believes in tests,” says Ken Werner, president of Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution. “For them, tests aren’t so much about ratings as they are about proof of performance, relative to creative output.”
“They’ll get a chance to see Bethenny perform and to see the breadth of her capabilities,” Werner says. “We’ll have the inherent advantage of going into a full season with a lot of experience working with the talent.”
In three markets — New York, Philadelphia and Phoenix — it will lead out of Debmar-Mercury’s Wendy Williams, which Fox picked up after a 2008 summer test.
“The shows are naturally compatible,” says McLoughlin. “Bethenny and Wendy both have an honest, real connection with female viewers. They both have a young appeal, which should help with flow between the two shows.”
This summer’s episodes are taping on the Ellen set at Warner Bros. studios in Burbank, Calif., which has been lightly redecorated in dark browns and light blues with two living room chairs facing the audience.
If the shows gets the post-test green light, it might be moved to New York.
The producers will work to improve the show during its year off, says McLoughlin. “We would continue to use Bethenny on Ellen to keep her in the conversation.”
Bethenny is not be alone in vying for space on station schedules in fall 2013.
Sony Pictures Television recently hired former Rosie O’Donnell showrunner Corin Nelson to executive produce Queen Latifah, which will start taping this summer. And Food Network chefs Bobby Flay and Giada DeLaurentiis have a Live with Kelly-type show that Flay’s agent is pitching to potential syndication partners, according to multiple sources.