Two big names have entered the daytime talk field this season, and neither ther appears particularly interested in breaking new ground. Former sitcom star Tony Danza (Who's the Boss?) offers showbiz fluff à la Ellen DeGeneres or former chat host Wayne Brady. Jane Pauley, with Today and Dateline on her résumé, has embarked on the Oprah phase of her career.
Danza sticks to a softball interviewing style and makes only mild, half-apologetic jokes about celebrities. He's prone to malapropisms ("The Tony Danza Show leaves no stone uncovered") and empty gush ("Having this talk show is a riot 'cause I get to talk to people and stuff"). But Danza scores high in likability, especially when rambling through an anecdote. His description of an emotional Maury episode bordered on hilarious. He should consider elevating his announcer, bubbly Apprentice loser Ereka Vetrini, to full sidekick status and letting her move from a perch in the audience to a seat on the stage.
Pauley's premiere was an hour of coming attractions that featured inspirational stories and copious crying. Fearing my tear ducts couldn't take it, I waited a while before tuning back in. What I've found is a mixed bag: a touching, informative show on kids with a form of autism; a mutual-admiration session with Naomi Judd; routine episodes on food and fashion. "This almost made me weep," Pauley said of a bridal gown. But she looked quite composed.