That '90s Show

Can it be? Will the former leader of the Free World do the daily dish?

Well, he sure has the gift of gab. Former President Bill Clinton, that is. Whether he uses it to take on Oprah in daytime syndication remains to be seen.

But believe it or not (and there are a lot of people who do not), Clinton has seriously considered doing just that. So serious that he sat through a presentation last week with NBC executives who walked him through the process, challenges and opportunities of doing a daytime syndicated talk show.

Both NBC and Clinton's handlers confirmed the meeting, which was held last Wednesday at the West Coast offices of Hollywood producer Harry Thomason, a longtime Clinton confidant, who has advised him on numerous media issues in the past.

Representing NBC at the meeting were NBC President Andrew Lack, NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker and NBC Enterprises President Ed Wilson.

Both sides characterized the meeting as exploratory and stressed that no offer is on the table. Some reports had it that Clinton had asked for $50 million to do a talk show for the network, but others close to the situation insisted that money hadn't been discussed.

Julia Payne, a Clinton spokeswoman, issued a statement last Thursday, explaining: "Yesterday's informal meeting was one of many meetings President Clinton has had with many people over the past year. President Clinton did not demand a talk show. He went to listen. The President is gratified by the range of opportunities that have been presented to him."

The tabloid press had a field day with the story last week. There's a lot of fodder there, of course, given the sex scandal that led to Clinton's impeachment in 1998. And tawdry sex issues are grist for the talk-show mill, nowhere more consistently than on The Jerry Springer Show, whose host is himself a former politician.

Some in the business think Clinton would be crazy to do it, including Maury Povich, who fronts his own daily gabfest. "He brings too much personal baggage," Povich told the Daily News
last week. "Can you see him doing 'Who's the Father?'"

The New York Daily News
ran a front-page headline Friday, "Bubba TV." The one-column story inside was accompanied by two columns of photos of suggested Clinton show guests, including Linda Tripp ("Are you taping this show?") and Robert Blake ("I didn't do it, did you?").