Talking TV: For Michaela Pereira, Lots Of Opportunities Remain In Talk

The talk show genre has far from played itself out and there’s still room for more comers says Michaela Pereira, whose eponymous new talker debuts from PPI this fall. A full transcript of the conversation is included.

The prospect of $20 million-$30 million talkers may be on indefinite hold, but Michaela Pereira says that doesn’t mean the field has been fenced off.

Pereira, a Canadian-born former anchor at KTLA and KTTV who also had  a seven-year stint at CNN/HLN (where she co-hosted New Day and hosted MichaeLA), is currently readying her own eponymous talker for fall release with PPI. She says the key ingredient for it — or any other talk show that stands a chance — is the host’s ability to forge a genuine connection with audiences in an age where we’ve all come to feel too disconnected from everything.

In this Talking TV conversation, Pereira expounds on how to come at that sense of connection and how a long career in daily live television can be one of the best foundations for helming a talker.

Episode transcript below, edited for clarity.

Michael Depp: The syndication pipeline isn’t thick with talk shows anymore, but Michaela Pereira is an exception. The former KTLA anchor and host of Good Day L.A. on KTTV is currently developing an eponymous show for fall release with PPI, banking on the notion that there’s still room for a good talker, if not a $30 million one.

I’m Michael Depp, editor of TVNewsCheck, and this is Talking TV, the podcast that brings you smart conversations about the business of broadcasting. Today, a conversation with Michaela Pereira about what makes a good talker work and what that genre — and its hosts — need to do to stay connected and relevant for audiences in 2023. We’ll be right back.


Welcome, Michaela Pereira, to Talking TV.

Michaela Pereira: Hi Michael, one of my favorite things to talk about.

Michaela, it is a very competitive landscape in talk and there are a lot of well-known bodies on that battlefield. Why do you want to host a new talk show in 2023?

It’s something I’ve wanted, Michael, my entire career. And I think that I have been working towards this moment since the day I realized as the light bulb went off over my head that this was something that I could do and do very well. TV and I came to each other sort of by accident.

But, you know, serendipity, fate, God, whatever you believe in. And so, the culmination of a 30-year career has brought me to this point. And look, I’ll tell you, when people ask me, well, why you? Why now? Frankly, I’ll say, why not me?

I’m a journalist, first and foremost, and I’ve spent most of my career talking to people and interacting with people and hearing their stories. They give their stories to me, and we connect.

And the fact is now I think that’s the thing we need more than anything is to reestablish connection, right? We were so disconnected for so long and are now just trying to remember how to do it again. And I’d like to be part of that conversation. Remind us who we are. I think the time is now.

So, what is your show’s value proposition?

That’s always such a challenging thing to answer, right? I don’t necessarily speak in those terms, But look, I think when I look around the landscape right now, like you said, there’s a lot of big names and a lot of really talented people out there. But the idea that there’s not enough room for all of us I think is misguided. You have a veteran of conversation and connection. 30 years.

I said it before, and I know I keep repeating that. But the fact is I’ve interviewed people, leaders of state, people of note, names that are familiar to all of us. And I’ve also talked to everyday Joes, people that are in their communities trying to figure out ways to make those communities better. Frankly, those are my favorite stories, the people that are looking to fix what’s wrong. Fix what’s not working. People that are trying to make the world a better place for all of us.

So, I’m hoping that we can shine a light on some of those things. Look, it’s not a secret to any of us that things are tough right now. The economy is tough. We’ve had a string of terrible storms and flooding and drought. The climate is in chaos. And I think there’s a lot of stress in individual lives. So, I’m hoping that we can provide an hour a day, a bit of an escape. A bit of home, a bit of comfort, some connection, some warmth and try to get through this thing together.

Now you are known to L.A. audiences, but maybe not as much beyond that market. So how are you going to work with that? How do you introduce yourself to the nation?

Well, I don’t know that is a brand-new introduction. I think my face will be familiar to those who watch CNN and HLN. My six years at both of those networks allowed me great access to folks across the country. And I know that they’re watching. When I look at my comments on my social media, folks are saying hi from all over the place. It’s funny. My friends jokingly say that I collect people and I do that in my personal life, but I think I do that with people who watch and cheer me on in my career, too.

It’s been really remarkable to watch that. Somebody who used to watch me when I was on CHEK-TV in two decades ago still is following along to see how I’m doing. Somebody from when I go home to see my family, people on Vancouver Island will remind me like, Oh, hey, Michaela, how’s Gordie on CHEK around the show that I did nearly 30 years ago

So, CNN and HLN and my time on Vancouver Island, my time on I’m TechTV in San Francisco, I think will really help in terms of a bit of name recognition. But the fact is, I think people are open to seeing something new. And we’re hoping to bring something slightly new. We’re not going to reinvent the wheel here. Television is television. And I think we’re going to try and do things a little bit differently, try to innovate a little bit here and there. And we feel confident that’s going to work.

And it’s my understanding that former anchors or current anchors, people who know daily TV production have a little bit of an advantage coming in to talk shows. How do you see that helping you?

Well, I’ll tell you one thing for sure — you need is stamina. I mean, I’ve spent six hours on the air at one sitting covering breaking news or a special event, a royal wedding or the funeral of a head of state. So, that idea that I can I have the intestinal fortitude and bladder strength, if you want to be silly, but you know what I’m saying? It takes energy.

Anybody that does television and is really good at it, we make it look easy. It’s like how LeBron makes shooting a layup look easy. People that are good at their job make it look easy. But the fact is, it does take a lot of work and it takes a lot of energetic output. Right. So, to be able to do that for two hours at a time, three hours at a time, or four or five or six hours at a time, it takes stamina, and it takes skill, and it takes patience, frankly. So, I think that’s one advantage right off the bat.

The second thing is I’ve been able to carry our two-hour-long broadcast. That isn’t a weight that is unfamiliar to me. It’s very comfortable, live TV. I’m very comfortable with is the same way I am with taped pieces. The first show I ever did in television in Canada, in British Columbia, was a live-to-tape daily show. So, we had that demanding schedule. We had to turn a new show out every day, but it was live to tape. So, we weren’t really having to do heavy editing. It was very much, you know, shooting from the hip, getting it on as quick as you can. Pretty raw, pretty dirty. But it was, you know, it was a great show. It had a great following. So, I think that live element, I think is going to is an advantage for sure.

Right. Now, you touched on this already a little bit, but it does seem like the existential need for any talk show is the host’s ability to connect. I mean, Oprah was the apotheosis of that. And others have reached connectivity to greater or lesser degrees. How do you plan to tap into that? How do you come at that?

Well, look, it’s interesting because it’s not something I have to try to do. I’m infinitely curious. I’m infinitely curious about humans and the human experience and people. I’m what you call a people person with a dash of introvertedness. So, for me, it isn’t an effort to try and connect with people. It’s what I do.

Try leaving a party with me, Michael. It’s impossible. Ask my partner. Try walking down the street with me or go grocery shopping with me. People and I find each other. We connect. So that’s if that’s at our basis, right, if that’s our starting point, we’re not going to have to work very hard. What we’re going to have to do is make sure we set up the show that allows those avenues to me.

So, does that mean I’m in the studio audience? Does it mean I’m in the field talking to folks? More than ever, we’ve understood the need to meet people where they’re at, right? You’re sure there’s aspirational TV, but we also just have to check in with folks. People are struggling. I need to go to where they are to see what’s up, to see what’s going on, connect with them in an authentic way. And the team’s working on different ways, really innovative ways.

I want to come back to that leaving the studio in just a second. But I want to hold on to the authenticity idea for just a second. I was having a conversation with a friend of mine last night. And it was funny because we were talking about that this interview and a well-known talk show host who I won’t mention… I have to confess, I don’t watch a lot of talk and so I happen to be in a lobby and watching a clip that was live of this show when they had the sound off. I was just sort of watching it in a soundless, pantomimed way, just sort of watching the body language and that notion of relatability. So, she saw the very same clip and happened to bring this up as an example, which is extraordinary. I’ve never seen the show, but she locked into the fact that she thought that this was a great example of this host’s authenticity and ability to connect, whereas I watched the very same clip and thought: This is so performative and so overexaggerated. It’s so frankly, it’s the opposite of authentic to me. And it looked very contrived. So, two people coming at…

But OK, Michael, so you’ve lived long enough to know that two people can witness a scene and have two very different opinions of what happened. Right. And look, that’s the challenge of trying to get a studio audience to like, you know, connect with your show, connect with your product, stay loyal to it; tune in day after day after day, is that people are going to receive it differently. So, you know, I’ve been looking a lot at intention and impact in my own life. You know, I may not have the intention of being rude or being short with you, but if you end up feeling that way because of how I behaved, that’s different from my intention and the impact, right?

We have to be aware of the impact we’re having on people. And so, I look at that. I take that notion and look at what we’re what we’re doing in terms of, you know, working on grabbing an audience. We can have the intention, but we also have to see what’s actually landing.

I have been on TV for a long time. And I know that the thing that I that I do uniquely is that I connect with folks. They see themselves in me. Maybe I’m familiar to them in a way. I’m not sure. I can’t put my finger on it exactly. But time and time again I hear it and I know it. And as much as it sounds hokey, in a way, it’s my superpower, Michael.

So, if for me it comes off as disingenuous, I don’t I don’t know what to say. But I can tell you this is who I am, Right? I know that that has been a challenge because there are actors on TV. Separating fact from fiction and separating truth from, you know, how is somebody authentically and how are they in actuality? But it’s how they make us feel when we’re watching it. That’s what you said. You felt completely different than your friend did. I there’s a Maya Angelou quote that I that I love and I’m paraphrasing. It’s not what you say to people. It’s how you make them feel. And so, look, that’s the thing that we’re going to have to be really mindful of as we do this.

Well, on the flip side of this, what about the audiences themselves? Do you think that they’ve changed or evolved, especially if you’re on streaming?

Oh, look, I realize because I’ve changed, my habits of consuming have changed dramatically. All of us have you know, our habits have changed. How we get the content we consume has changed. Our appetites have changed, our attention levels, our attention spans have changed.

So, that’s one of the reasons why we have talked about the fact the need to innovate how we do this show. We can’t just take the same model, I believe, of a traditional talk show and do it just the same way with a different host and expect different results. So, to me, we have to think of an innovative way to connect, to present it and bring this show to life.

Let’s talk about where the studio fits into that, because it seems you’ve already brought up the prospect of leaving the studio, going to people where they are. Where at this moment, where are you envisioning that playing a role in the show?

Well, I think it’s going to be important to get to people. Look, none of this has been finalized to a point where I can announce it to you. But we’re going to work on how to weave into the into the daily show aspects that are shot and brought to us. You know, obviously, playing on my ability to be out in the field from my journalism experience, obviously, that’ll help us. But I think that I see it daily in the programs so it’s not just studio based.

It also seems to be the case that the more enduring shows now are thinking about their structure a little bit differently. In other words, they’ve built in a more modular construction of the show for social distribution and audience development on other platforms beyond just linear TV. As the show is continuing to get there, how are you thinking about the structure in that way?

We have to consider that. I was having this conversation with a news friend of mine recently and she was lamenting the fact that the station that she worked for (prior to the one she’s in now) that digital was always sort of an afterthought. Oh, yeah, I post this to the web, whatever. We have to understand that … look at how you and I are having a conversation via Zoom over the internet from your place to mine and on different coasts. We’ll post this on digital platforms. The newsletter will go out via email and people will read it on their phones or watch the content on their phones.

So, if this is where we’re spending most of our time, we can’t just be considering the box or the frame on our walls. So, we had this conversation just recently how vital it is to have a robust presence online in digital and make sure that that content is of equal value, because that’s how so many eyes will see it.

When you look at the field that’s out there now and the reticence of many producers to go down this road of new talk shows, what do you think is going to happen in talk over the next couple of years? I know you said there’s room for everybody, but does that mean that that there are going to be opportunities for everybody?

There have to be opportunities. Look, if I understood all of the ins and outs of this and if I had a crystal ball, I would be a very rich woman. It’s hard to say, right? It’s hard to say. There have been so many changes, and I think there were changes that we could have seen coming and then there are other changes that we just didn’t anticipate. There will be opportunity for shows like this. And time will tell where audiences, what they what they drift towards. But we’re going to give them another option that I think will be home for a lot of folks. I’m really excited about it.

All right. Well, Michaela Pereira’s new show, Michaela, from PPI will be debuting this fall. Good luck as it continues to come together. We’ll look forward to seeing it.

Happy New Year to you, Michael.

Happy New Year. And you can watch past episodes of Talking TV on and on our YouTube channel. We’ll see you next week.

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