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The Celebrity Talk Show Matrix

As Drew Barrymore revolutionizes the genre with a blend of wholesomely chaotic content, it’s worth diving into the space as a whole—from Ellen to Tyra Banks to, yes, Kris Jenner

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Ever since The Phil Donahue Show became a hit in the 1970s, the daytime talk show has been a staple of American television. It originally appealed to a huge, often underserved and undervalued audience: the stay-at-home mom. For decades, daytime talk shows remained the same, sticking to a format and tone reminiscent of every other daytime talk show: a little monologue, celebrity guests, then a cooking segment, and, overall, safe, family-friendly, All-American content. But as celebrities started to wedge into the format in the late ’90s and into the early 2000s, it began to evolve and splinter. Daytime talk shows were no longer all the same. In an effort to get the best ratings, networks started experimenting with tone and format, hiring hot celebs or reality TV stars with little to no experience to see if anything stuck. Most of them have not. Whereas in the ’80s and ’90s, shows like The Oprah Winfrey Show and The Rosie O’Donnell Show had experienced hosts, a clear angle, and established audiences, a majority of celebrity daytime talk shows—such as the one hosted by The Real Housewives of New York City star and cocktail inventor Bethenny Frankel—have been flops that get canceled after one or two seasons. (Or, in Kris Jenner’s case, after six weeks.)

But the celebrity daytime talk show is no longer just for the stay-at-home parent. The pandemic has changed the way people consume entertainment, and what they can watch. I, for example, never would have become The Drew Barrymore Show’s no. 1 stan before the pandemic because I am, in regular times, not home at 9 a.m. The Drew Barrymore Show, which debuted on September 14, has already lasted longer than The Kris Jenner Show. I tune into it every single morning. (I have missed only one episode, and that was not a good day.) In its first two months, The Drew Barrymore Show has transformed from a formulaic bore into unhinged but wholesome chaos; it has other daytime talk shows, such as Today with Kathie Lee & Hoda to thank for that.

But The Drew Barrymore Show isn’t the only unhinged daytime talk show. In honor of the show that is truly saving my soul during these troubling times, in honor of a truly absurd genre of television, and after watching many hours of clips from daytime television shows spanning two decades on YouTube, I created the Daytime Talk Show Matrix, which highlights the range of celebrity-hosted daytime talk shows from conventional to chaotic, and wholesome to desperate.

Before you see the matrix, it’s important for you to understand the criteria for the shows within it:

  • To keep it focused, only daytime talk shows that started in the 21st century were considered. This means no Oprah, no The Rosie O’Donnell Show, and no The Howie Mandel Show. (So sorry to the Howie fans!)
  • The exception to this rule is Live! With Kelly and Ryan. Even though Live! started with Regis Philbin and Cyndy Garvey in 1983, it’s still one of the most popular of the daytime talk shows. Now it’s had two celebrity hosts (Michael Strahan and Ryan Seacrest), and celebs cohost often.
  • No doctor talk shows. Please go elsewhere for compelling content about Dr. Phil and The Doctors.

Daytime talk shows must be written about somewhere so that they are never forgotten, and I hope that this helps ensure their legacy. And there are many questions that only I, a person who watched several episodes of The Tony Danza Show (2004-06) for this blog, can answer. With the matrix as a guide, here are some rankings and important observations about the miracle and shitshow that is celebrity-hosted daytime talk shows of the 21st century.

Who is the most desperate host?

Like Thanos, the motivation for a celebrity to host a show being pure greed is ... inevitable. But who is (or was) desperate enough to go through the trouble of hosting a daytime talk show—which is, actually, a lot of work and, for most, involves very early mornings—purely for the money, access, and relevance?

  1. Ellen: It’s possible that Ellen DeGeneres was passionate about hosting a daytime talk show when the series first started in 2003, when her dear friend George W. Bush was in office. But through the years, Ellen has grown more bitter and more desperate for celebrity friends and the invites to their parties (more on that later). Her ambivalent and at times aggravated energy is evident in nearly every episode. The only times Ellen seems satisfied with her job is when she’s interviewing someone she wants to be friends with and it’s going well, like any interview with notable Ellen defender and frequent guest Diane Keaton. Ellen’s priority used to be hosting a daytime talk show and maintaining a toxic work culture. Now Ellen’s priority is being the first person to get a viral child on her show. Making sure everyone knows she isn’t still bullying her employees anymore comes second. Though, while Ellen tainted her own legacy, she still deserves credit for her influence on daytime television. She experimented with the format by bringing more of herself (and more comedy) into it, which paved the way for many others to come.
  2. Kris Jenner: Giving Kris Jenner second place in a desperation contest is a choice that I will stand by forever. Guests on The Kris Jenner Show (2013-13) included Scott Disick, Kendall, Kylie, and one of Jennifer Lopez’s dancers. P. Diddy cohosted an episode so Kris could prove she knows him. The Kris Jenner Show was less of a daytime talk show and more of an attempt at a Kardashian-branded QVC hour. The Kris Jenner Show was canceled after six weeks because Kris Jenner was not interested in anyone or anything except her daughter Kim.
  3. Megan Mullally: Hot off the ending of Will & Grace, Megan Mullally’s brain worms activated and convinced her that hosting a daytime talk show was the way. You can’t really blame her: As an actress over a certain age, good roles like the one that won her two Emmys were probably scarce. But having a distinct voice does not mean you should host a daytime television show. Mullally, who acted like she had never asked anyone a question before hosting a The Megan Mullally Show (2006-07), was out of her element, and only comfortable when her Will & Grace costars were guests.
  4. Fran Drescher: More than a decade after The Nanny series finale, Fran Drescher hosted a daytime talk show. The Fran Drescher Show’s (2010-10) only redeeming quality is that Fran frequently brought her dog. It must be said again: Having a distinct voice does not mean you should host a daytime television show.
  5. The View: Most things that people say in the group chat should remain in the group chat. The View (1997-) is basically if a group chat was a television show, with conversations ranging from whether or not Donald Trump is a “macho man” to what the women are bingeing: Whoopi is watching Vampires vs. the Bronx and Joy Behar (who rarely lets anyone else talk) is watching a Danish show with subtitles. Whoopi Goldberg deserves better. If you are reading and have any power to do this, please put Whoopi Goldberg in movies again.
  6. Bethenny Frankel: “Another opportunity to promote my brand, Skinnygirl? Why not!” This is definitely what Bethenny Frankel said when someone asked her if she wanted to host a daytime talk show in 2012.
  7. Tyra Banks: Tyra Banks wasn’t in it for the money, but for the relevance beyond America’s Next Top Model. Unlike the rest of the desperate bunch, The Tyra Banks Show (2005-11) had some passion behind it. Although many of her segments were misguided—including all the times she went “undercover” as a homeless person, a stripper, or a fat person—she put her heart, soul, and smize into the show. Tyra genuinely wanted to engage with her audience and educate people on issues they might not understand, including race and body image. She had conversations that were highly problematic, including an episode about race in which the audience had to guess what race people were. Tyra tried, but the packaging was always a bit off, and many of the tactics she used to start these conversations pitted women against each other.
  8. Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest: Live! probably should have ended when Regis Philbin retired, but he built such a strong legacy that it’s been the most-watched daytime TV shows for decades, meaning it will likely always exist with a new rotation of hosts, even after Kelly Ripa, who has been with the show since 2001, exits. Ripa has been doing daytime television for so long that it’s a part of her muscle memory now—for her, interviewing celebrities about their children from a high-top chair is what turning on the blinker is to other people. She has no ill intent, but she doesn’t have much more intent anymore beyond it being her job and the fact that if she doesn’t do it anymore, she will not have a job anymore.
  9. Sharon Osbourne: Sharon wasn’t desperate, she just wanted something to do independent of her husband. She had fun hosting The Sharon Osbourne Show (2003-04), but had a laid-back energy that suggested she didn’t really care if it was successful. Maybe it was more of a launching pad—she’s still in the daytime game on The Talk, where she really thrives in a group setting.

Who is the most wholesome host?

Not all celebs who pivot to daytime are in it for the money or the clout. Some are in it because they love it.

  1. Drew Barrymore: Drew Barrymore is obsessed with everyone and everything. Every single person who appears on The Drew Barrymore Show (2020-) is the greatest person who has ever lived. Every single movie, television show, podcast, or thing anyone is promoting is the greatest, most important movie, television show, podcast, or thing ever made. (She correctly made this case for Hubie Halloween.) The Drew Barrymore Show has been on for only eight weeks, but she is already, without a doubt, the most wholesome host in daytime talk-show history.
  2. Queen Latifah: The Queen Latifah Show (2011-13) should still be on the air. Queen Latifah’s interviews were comprehensive—she really listened and put thought into her conversations. There is a particularly good interview she did with Nicki Minaj about representing not only Black women but women in general, and about being women in hip hop. Queen Latifah has natural chemistry with anyone who walks into her studio and is just as obsessed with all of her guests as Drew Barrymore is—especially Dolly Parton.
  3. Kelly Clarkson: Since 2019, the talk-show format has allowed Kelly Clarkson to fully be herself: a singer, a person who loves talking to anyone about anything, a person who will debut Vin Diesel’s new single and ask her virtual audience to dance to it, and a person who is so obsessed with Meryl Streep that she dresses up as Meryl Streep in Death Becomes Her for Halloween and has her set transformed into a replica of the house in Death Becomes Her, which included a giant Andy Warhol–style diptych of Meryl Streep. This is very wholesome.
  4. Bonnie Hunt: Return to Me director Bonnie Hunt embraced her Midwestern roots on The Bonnie Hunt Show (2008-10). Her set looked exactly like my aunt’s basement in the suburbs of Chicago. Segments on the show included trips to Costco and long rants about shopping for vacuum cleaners at Bed Bath & Beyond, and her favorite people to interview were hot actors. If The Bonnie Hunt Show was still on the air, Bonnie Hunt would be the most charming horny person on the air.
  5. The Talk: The Talk (2010-) is essentially the same concept as The View, except it’s watchable. Five female hosts pop off about celebrity gossip and the news and interview guests. But unlike The View, no host on The Talk is trying to be the only host of the show. Everyone respects each other: One day, cohost Sharon Osbourne dyed her hair, and the women took two minutes to discuss how fabulous it looked.
  6. Today with Hoda & Jenna: The fourth hour of The Today Show (yes, it is longer than The Irishman and on every single weekday) has skewed a bit more conventional since 2019, when Jenna Bush Hager replaced original cohost Kathie Lee Gifford—the source of a majority of the show’s chaotic content including hosting in dog costumes while drinking wine. But Hoda & Jenna (2007-) still has a “two women on round five of chardonnay at Friday happy hour” vibe that makes the show so special. More times than not, there actually is wine, even though the show films live at 10 a.m.
  7. Steve Harvey: At any moment on Steve Harvey (2012-17), it feels like Steve Harvey could rip off his mustache and run away, never to be seen or heard from again. But because Steve Harvey is so eager to give women advice about dating, his show leans more conventional than chaotic. Steve Harvey was born out of an assumption that Steve Harvey is a relationship expert, because his 2009 book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man (which has the best cover in book publishing history), was semi-successful. And thank God for that, because this is some of the most fascinating content I’ve ever seen. In almost every episode, before giving his advice—which is usually something like “What are you doing, girl?”—Steve Harvey would look at the floor and laugh. It sounds mean when I describe it, but Steve Harvey really wanted to use his voluminous mustache, bright smile, and apparent expertise to help people find love.
  8. Rachael Ray: You might learn something about cooking from watching Rachael Ray (2006-), but you probably won’t learn anything new about her guests. Ray has a relaxed, casual vibe to her food-centric show, which means interviews are relatively safe, no matter who the guest is. (While cooking together, Ray asked Lindsay Lohan questions about being a businesswoman.) But Rachael Ray keeps it mildly interesting because she is prone to making dad jokes, and after watching dozens of clips from her show, I am convinced that her favorite film of 2019 was Ford v Ferrari.
  9. Harry Connick Jr.: Daytime television should ease people into the day. Harry really tried to do this, but his earnestness was so soothing that it lulled you back to sleep. Harry (2016-18) would have worked better in a late-night slot, but no network wants a show that encourages people to go to bed.
  10. Wendy Williams: The Wendy Williams Show (2008-) is not wholesome in spirit, but Wendy Williams’s fervent passion for celebrity gossip is wholesome. She is a necessary evil, the TMZ of daytime, if you will.

Daytime’s Most Chaotic Programs

To understand how a daytime show can be chaotic, you have to understand the conventional shows. Conventional daytime shows are derivative, stick to a familiar format, and overall don’t exceed expectations. Minus Dakota Johnson challenging Ellen about inviting her to her 30th birthday party, nothing shocking or challenging happens on conventional daytime talk shows. Conventional talk show hosts are playing house, and chaotic talk-show hosts are playing a game they invented that no one else understands. Here are the shows that play that “game” best.

  1. The Drew Barrymore Show: Drew Barrymore screams all the time—mostly because she loves screaming, but also she was in the movie Scream. Drew Barrymore keeps an American Girl doll under her desk and interviews it several times a week.

The Drew Barrymore Show has little to no structure, with segments airing at different times every week. One day Drew will start the show with her celebrity guest. The next day she’ll start by making lasagna, for some reason.

  1. Bethenny: Bethenny Frankel is the best possible person to be on a reality TV show: She’s erratic and says whatever she is thinking, even if it is mean. But Bethenny Frankel is the worst possible person to host a talk show, because she talks too fast and always has to have the last word. It’s impossible for Bethenny to interview people because she constantly interrupts with clever little quips or just unsolicited feedback. Her short-lived talk show Bethenny, which was an awkward mix of Ellen and Maury, proved where she really belonged (on The Real Housewives of New York City). But credit where credit is due: She did get James Blunt to admit that the song “You’re Beautiful” is creepy, just after reading her tweets to him.
  2. The Wendy Williams Show: Wendy Williams has been so successful because she figured out how to make her turbulent energy work in the talk-show format. At the top of the show, she discusses hot topics, which is basically just Wendy Williams talking off the cuff about whatever the hell she wants to talk about, including her experience as a giant pair of lips on The Masked Singer. Only then does she transition into a more conventional style with guests and segments. The most chaotic event in the history of The Wendy Williams Show was when she fainted during her Halloween 2017 show while dressed as the Statue of Liberty. Thankfully, she is okay.
  3. The Tony Danza Show: The first episode of The Tony Danza Show opens with a shot of a garbage truck driving on a sunny, tree-lined Manhattan street. Hanging on the back of the garbage truck is none other than . . . you guessed it! Tony Danza. Tony Danza hops off the garbage truck and says, “Hey hey hey! I’m Tony Daza and I’m in New York City live.” This is the vibe of his entire show, which aired for two seasons between 2004 and 2006.
  4. Kris: I have never hosted a talk show. But I think that when you host a talk show, you’re supposed to interact with your guests and not run away from them, even if your guests are reptiles. Perhaps Kris Jenner rudely walking away from an alligator she invited on the show is why her show was so bad?

The Most ... Excitable Daytime Talk Show Hosts

  1. Bonnie Hunt: As we mentioned above, no daytime host is hornier than Bonnie Hunt. A majority of guests on The Bonnie Hunt Show were hot male actors, and she often made references to dating or potentially sleeping with them. Before interviewing and eating fried chicken with Gerard Butler in 2009, Bonnie Hunt said that she would be taking him home later that night. In an interview with Supernatural star Jared Padalecki, Bonnie Hunt told him that she started dating his costar Jensen Ackles after interviewing him recently. Her one true power was turning the daytime arena into a cozy Midwestern basement with snacks (the food kind and the man kind).
  2. The Talk: To be fair to Bonnie Hunt, she is not the only woman in daytime who was ever attracted to Jensen Ackles. Every single host on The Talk was giddy over the presence of Jensen Ackles when he and Jared Padalecki were on the show this year. The Talk also once talked to Rumer Willis about how empowering BDSM is for women. Cohost Eve said, “It’s so powerful. It’s so beautiful. It’s sexy to the 97th power.”
  3. Drew Barrymore: Drew Barrymore told Anne Hathaway that she was “crushing” on her at a Halloween party a few years ago before asking Hathway to leave her family and date her instead.
  4. Wendy Williams: After saying “I don’t know anything about this Joker,” Wendy Williams went into a rant about how hot she thinks Joaquin Phoenix is. She later had to apologize for her comments about cleft lips.
  5. Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee: When J.Lo came on the show unannounced in 2014, Hoda kept her mouth wide open the entire time, only barely resisting the urge to start making out with her. Two years later, she and Kathie Lee smelled Ray Liotta.

The Surreality of Daytime Talk Shows

Some things you have to see to believe, like Baby Yoda or the Trump campaign accidentally booking a press conference at a landscaping company called Four Seasons instead of the Four Seasons Hotel. In daytime television, there are many of these moments, which might make you feel like you’re living in an over-the-top simulation.

Steve Harvey helps a woman who is addicted to a whistle

Steve Harvey had a woman on his show who was having trouble dating because her passion was getting in the way. That passion? Blowing a whistle at the club. The woman comes onto the stage, and as house music starts to play, she dances and . . . blows a whistle. As she continues to whistle, Steve Harvey dances off the stage and screams, “That’s why you ain’t got no man!”

Colin Quinn handcuffs the very drunk Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford

The most important thing to know about this is that Hoda and Kathie Lee admit they were so drunk when they shot this segment that they do not remember it at all.

Kelly Clarkson’s virtual audience listens to Vin Diesel’s single “Feel Like I Do” for the first time

It’s impossible to fully grasp the power of Vin Diesel as a musical artist until you see Kelly Clarkson’s audience of rectangle screens sway to his debut single “Feel Like I Do.” Since the Fast and Furious franchise is reportedly coming to an end after 11 movies, maybe Vin should pivot to daytime as well?

Wendy Williams almost falls asleep while listening to someone talk about Lily James, Dominic West, and Armie Hammer

In late October, Wendy Williams had an entertainment journalist from E! on the show to explain the still-developing story that is the Lily James, Dominic West, and possibly also Armie Hammer love web. As the reporter dug deeper into Lily James’s romantic history, Wendy got less interested, seemingly forcing herself to widen her eyes and roll her tongue around the inside of her mouth so she would not fall asleep in her chair. She then ended the discussion by abruptly changing the subject without any comment.

Bethenny Frankel kicks a sugar baby out of her studio

Bethenny Frankel invited three sugar babies onto the program and had her audience ask them questions about being sugar babies. One woman in the audience asked one of the sugar babies how she feels about potentially ruining marriages and families. The sugar baby screamed, “I bet you that girl has had dinner with a guy and had sex with him after!” The woman, off camera, then yelled back, “I’m gay, fool!” Then, after the sugar baby yelled out a racially charged comment about KFC, Bethenny kicked the sugar baby out of the studio and apologized to her audience.

Billy Porter sings to a flower on The Drew Barrymore Show

It’s exactly what it sounds like. Drew has not since brought back singing to a flower, but I demand more of it. Please. It’s good branding for Drew’s brand, Flower. (Bethenny Frankel agrees.)

Ana Navarro accidentally creates a meme on The View

If you are even a little bit online, you’ve probably seen someone say “The power that that has, the intelligence that that has, the clearance that that has, the access that that has, the influence that that has, the profile that that has, the international implications that that has.” A random person on Twitter did not make this up. Ana Navarro actually said this on The View talking about the former general H.R. McMaster being named national security adviser despite alleged connections to Russia.

The most early 2000s thing happens on a daytime TV show from the early 2000s

In the same episode of The Tony Danza Show in which Tony Danza introduces himself from the back of a garbage truck, James Gandolfini appears as Tony Soprano from The Sopranos, in a sketch in which Tony Soprano works as a producer on The Tony Danza Show. The power that that has, the intelligence that that has . . .

Evidence That Ellen Degeneres Is Rude to Celebrities Too

The stars who continue to defend Ellen somehow haven’t seen any of this.

Ellen vs. Dakota Johnson, November 2019

Before Christmas last year, Dakota Johnson appeared on Ellen in an iconic long-sleeve black-and-red plaid dress that fit in well with the set’s holiday decor. And then Ellen ambushed her. But when Ellen rudely accused Dakota Johnson of not inviting Ellen to her 30th birthday party, Johnson corrected her on the spot: “Actually, no, that’s not the truth, Ellen, you were invited.” Dakota even got Ellen’s producer to back her up. I have this interview memorized because I have seen it so many times.

Ellen vs. Lindsay Lohan, September 2010

Lindsay Lohan came on Ellen soon after her breakup with Samantha Ronson, and Ellen decided to grill her about it, asking her condescending questions like, “You weren’t cheating?” before asking her even more condescending questions about her personal life and partying. The only question Ellen asked Lindsay about her acting career was “Are you having a hard time convincing people to give you work?” Lindsay said no.

Ellen vs. Hasan Minhaj, April 2019

Ellen didn’t even take the time to learn how to pronounce Hasan Minhaj’s name correctly and was floored when he told her that she said it wrong.

Ellen vs. Priyanka Chopra, January 2019

In a series of stunning events, Ellen brags about how she had the Jonas Brothers on her show “first”—as if being married to an adult Nick Jonas is comparable to booking the child version of him on a TV show—and then complains that the couple did not invite her to their wedding. Chopra tells Ellen that actually, she was invited, and that she was offended Ellen never responded to the invitation. So I leave you with one question: Is someone stealing Ellen’s mail?

Carrie Wittmer is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer with bylines in Vulture, Consequence of Sound, and Harper’s Bazaar. She tweets at @carriesnotscary.

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