Pre-interviews are out, Harry Connick Jr said of his new syndicated daytime variety show show from NBCUniversal that premieres next month.
Having been a guest on so many daytime and late-night talk shows over the years, Connick came to hate pre-interviews which, he said today at TCA, results in on-camera interviews that have an “undercurrent of rehearsal and planning” with worked out storylines and punchlines.
Connick said he’s pitching to celebrity publicists that his show will not do pre-interviews and his job as host and an executive producer is to know “everything there is to know about” their client when they visit the show. Connick, talking to journalists who cover this industry, said he’s confident celebs and their reps will find the no-pre-interview idea “liberating.” The journalists, based on their reaction, seemed to think otherwise. Connick, after listening to some of them, said pre-interviews will be optional for publicists who insist upon them for their clients.
Connick also touted his show as the one in which publicists will be promised their clients will not have to “play games – no dunk tanks” and no carefully thought-out stunts designed to “become viral.” It was surprising to hear this from the host and EP of an NBCUni show, given that NBC practically owns that genre as evidenced by, say, Tonight Show‘s Slow Jamming the News, Beer Pong, Thanks You Notes, etc. (though ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live! is no slouch on that front with its wildly successful celebrities-reading-mean-tweets, etc.).
“There’s a difference between content that becomes viral and content that is created in hopes of becoming viral,” Connick insisted. “I’m of the opinion that if we go out there and do the show like we want to do,” then “all kinds of crazy things” will happen.
One TV critic noted the high mortality rate of daytime variety shows with a band, singing, comedy sketches, remotes another late-night sensibilities. The Martin Short Show comes to mind; it lasted one season, 1999-2000.
Asked if he had any concerns, Connick responded, “None at all.” If Harry runs 20 years “great,” he said, but if the show gets shut down after a couple of weeks owing to lousy ratings, he said, he will have “met some amazing people.”
“When I started my career making jazz records, the intent wasn’t to be successful, it was to make the best music I could make,” he said.
“I can tell you there are no other shows out there like this,” Connick said, maybe making the critics’ point. “I don’t know who my competitors are. I don’t worry about the risks at all.”
Asked why a guy with a successful recording and touring career, who has starred in primetime series, in movies, and on Broadway, wants to host a syndicated daytime talk show, Connick said he was asked similar questions when he signed on for Will & Grace and his first Broadway gig.
“I felt that this would be an opportunity to do all the things I really love to do, under one roof…,” he said. “This seems to be most in line with who I am. I’m not playing a character, I get to go out and play with immensely talented people and share it with people I share it with when I go out on tour. That seems like a dream job to me.”
Asked what it is about Connick that makes them think he can break through the clutter and the genre’s high mortality rate, executive producer Eric Stangel responded, “He’s a funny bastard.”
“That should be our tagline: You Funny Bastard,” Connick joked.
In April Jason Kurtz, previously co-exec producer for NBCU’s Steve Harvey, joined Harry, from NBCUniversal Domestic TV Distribution, as executive producer. The show debuts in national broadcast syndication September 12.