Meredith Vieira, who has come and gone from shows willingly
over the years, knows she is entering a potential minefield by returning to
daytime. But that's just fine by her.
"I'm going to be 60 in December and I've done TV since
1976," she said in an interview with B&C about The Meredith Vieira Show, the
syndicated talk show launch announced Tuesday by NBCUniversal. "I know all
of the possible perils and pitfalls that come with doing a project like this.
But there's also the thrill of doing a start-up. There's something that's very
exciting about itâ€”you have an empty landscape in front of you that you are
developing. I can't let any of that other stuff get to me. Ultimately, it's
going to be what it's going to be."
Vieira, who has hosted ABC's The View, NBC's Today
and Disney/ABC's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, is likely to land a
prime slot. It hasn't been announced yet, but it's all but certain that her
show will air on the NBC Owned Television Stations, leading into Steve
Harvey and Ellen. Once that's announced, other stations are expected
to fall in line.
CBS Television Distribution's Jeff Probst previously
occupied that early-afternoon slot on the NBC Owned Stations. This coming year,
those stations are filling the time with a hodgepodge of shows, including
Warner Bros.' Bethenny in San Francisco and Sony Pictures Television's Queen
Latifah in Hartford, Conn. The combination of Steve Harvey and Ellen
has strengthened NBC's daytime lineup, but, like Harvey this year, Meredith
Vieira won't have to turn in huge ratings to be considered a hit. All the
show has to do is improve over what Probst did this year, which was a
0.7 season-to-date household ratings average.
Vieira's low-key approach is different from the one
surrounding the show she is most often compared to: Disney/ABC's Katie,
starring Katie Couric, which entered the marketplace last fall with huge
expectations in high-rated time-slots. Vieira shares some very similar
experience with Couric -- both have anchored Today and reported for
60 Minutes -- but Vieira knows that it takes much more than just a news
background to win over daytime viewers.
"Everything I have done up to this point has led me to
where I am today," she said. "I love storytelling. I loved my time
with The View where I discovered my voice. Previously, my role had been
to be very objective and down the line as a traditional journalist, and it was
fun to mix it up with a group of ladies with very strong opinions. And when I
was doing the game show, I loved giving away money and having pure fun while
"I want to combine all of those elements in this new
show. I want to inspire people, make them laugh, and make them feel like they
are in my home. I would have done the show in my home if I could have fit an
audience in here."
To that end, the show's new set, which will be located in
the heart of Manhattan at 30 Rock, will be designed to look like Vieira's home,
complete with replicates of her furniture and family photographs.
"I'm inviting my audience in as opposed to me making
grand entrances," she said. "I want people to feel like they are
coming over to their friend's home for coffee."
She brings with her an executive producer, Richard Sirop,
who worked with her on Millionaire, as well as a band leader, Everett
Bradley, who's also a part of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band. She also said
"one of my best friends is going to be involved," but she wouldn't
reveal who quite yet.
Vieira's name has been tossed around in syndication circles
for years. More than most, she has the chops and the experience to host a
daytime talker, arguably one of the most grueling gigs in the television
business. But she didn't start to think seriously about taking on the job until
about a year ago, after she had left Today and its exhausting schedule,
but while still working on Millionaire.
"I don't know how the conversation started but in
between tapings of Millionaire, Richard and I would be chatting. I told
him, 'If I ever did go back, I would love you to be a part of it.' And then I
started thinking about what I missed about doing daytime."
In the meantime, Vieira has taped two news specials for NBC,
which are in the final stages of post-production. She also will be a special
correspondent at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, this February. After
that, her news commitment with NBC ends, although she said, "I'm inclined
to stay involved to some degree, but I need to see how much work is involved.
The last thing I want to do is some half-assed program."