NBC U Slates Mullally Talker


Will & Grace star Megan Mullally, who plays the besotted and horny socialite Karen Walker with a sort of Gracie Allen naivete on the NBC sitcom, will become the host of a daytime talk show for NBC Universal set to debut in fall 2006. (NBC has said Will & Grace itself will take its final bows out next spring.)

The syndicator that struck out with Jane Pauley's talk show last year and goes back to the market with Martha Stewart's new show this fall, announced the Mullally talk show without any pre-arranged station deals in hand.

That includes the NBC station group itself, which, in the case of Pauley's show, gave her an instant launching pad. A spokesman said NBC Universal will start selling the show this summer.

The announcement was made Monday by Jeff Zucker, President NBC Universal Television Group, Frederick Huntsberry, Executive Vice President, NBC Universal Television Distribution and Barry Wallach, President, NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution.

Mullally told B&C that she expects to do other things as well as the talker, but that for the first couple of years it will have to be her primary focus.

Mullally said she has not talked with any of her talk show friends about the move.

She worked with ex-talk maven Rosie O'Donnell in Grease and said she had just been on the verge of e-mailing her, but decided instead to give her a call in the next couple of days.

Mullally said she started thinking about talk shows several years ago after subbing for David Letterman when he had shingles. "I had such a good time, I thought, 'gosh, that is a job that you can have.' It had never occurred to me that I might want to do that, though I had grown up watching talk shows like Merv and Mike Douglas, then later Johhny Carson."

But she did not make the first move, she said, and neither did NBC U.

She was first approached about doing talk by King World, says Mullally, but succumbed to the passion--as in commitment to the show--of NBC U Entertainment Chief Jeff Zucker. "He made his intentions known," she said. He caught her band's concert at Lincoln Center--she sings with Supreme Music Program--and asked her to consider a talker for his company.

Zucker was "not amused" to hear she had been talking with King World, says Mullally, but her preexisting seven-year relationship with NBC and Zucker's "enthusiasm for the project" won the day.

Zucker's initial lack of amusement notwithstanding, NBC U benefited from the King World warm-up, since Mullally says by the time she got agreed to do the show, she had a better idea of what she actually wants to do.

And what is that?

"The celebrity culture is so pervasive that we don't have to hammer that point home," she says. Mullally wants to involve more noncelebrities, including the audience, in her show. One way to do that, she says, could be with a "highly interactive Web site," from which to cull interesting, inspirational, and unique people.

She will interview celebrities, she says, but in a setting tailored to them. "cocktails and a back rub," she says jokingly, but adds that in her guest-hosting stints, she has found that there are some celebrities who aren't comfortable because they feel they have to be hilarious all the time, but still they have something they want to say. "There is no reason we can't adjust the feel of the show to them," she says.