Meredith Vieira’s Dos and Don’ts of Daytime TV (INTERVIEW)

The daytime darling is set to debut her own talk show in September, but can she avoid the daytime talk show cancellation curse?
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Tracy Phillips
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The daytime darling is set to debut her own talk show in September, but can she avoid the daytime talk show cancellation curse?
Meredith Viera Daytime Talk Show Photo

(Photo: NBC)

Successfully launching a daytime talk show is like pulling off a magic trick. You need the right amount of hocus pocus, a couple of fun gimmicks and a charismatic personality fronting the show. Don’t forget a generous amount of luck.

But if anyone can pull it off, it just might be Meredith Vieira.

Vieira, 60, will host The Meredith Vieira Show, a nationally syndicated talk show that will air in most major markets on NBC-owned stations, beginning Monday, Sept. 8th.

The veteran broadcast journalist has long been a viewer favorite of daytime TV, starting as one of the original co-hosts of The View (1994-2006); then as co-host of The Today Show from 2006 to 2011; and hosting the syndicated version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire for 11 years.

Despite her reigning popularity and extensive experience, it doesn’t make the move to hosting her own show any less daunting for Vieira.

“It’s really scary,” Vieira told TV critics while promoting the show this summer. “I didn’t even want it to be my name, but we couldn’t come up with anything else [as a title].”

“Hopefully, it will be a reflection of my authenticity,” she continued, “because people who know me know what they’re going to get because I’ve been doing this for 40 years, and I am who I am.”

Here are some of the “rules” Vieira kept in mind when creating her new talk show:

1. Do Be Authentic.

“I use that word ‘authenticity,’ and I think that’s the keyword with an audience. I think that they can smell a fake a mile away,” Vieira said. “What has struck me the most is how significant daytime television is to the viewers. They connect with it in such a personal way. When I have folks come up to me, it’s never like, ‘Oh, Meredith Vieira.’ It’s almost like I’m their mother. Some say, ‘You remind me of my grandmother,’ which I don’t love … [Or] ‘my aunt,’ ‘my sister,’ ‘my best friend.’ And I think if you’re able to really reach your audience and connect and give them a reason to watch, then, hopefully, you’ll be a success.”

2. Do Make It Feel Like Home.

The show tapes at 30 Rock in New York City in the studio next to The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, but the set is designed to look just like Vieira’s real-life home. “They made the set a replica of my family room, the furniture and everything. That’s the sort of vibe I’m trying to put across. I want people to feel they’re coming into my house.”

3. A Do and A Don’t: Music = Yes, Dancing = No.

“Well, I can’t dance [like Ellen DeGeneres] anyhow, so that’s not going to happen … But there’s going to be a band, yes. Everett Bradley from the E Street Band, he’s one of the percussionists. He’s fabulous. And we have four women with him performing, so that’s a little bit different for daytime.”

4. Don’t Check Out the Competition.

Vieira didn’t seek out any talk show advice from her pals or her peers, nor has she checked out their shows “because I don’t want to be influenced.” “It’s nothing against them, but I want to be outside of the box,” she says.

5. Do Find a Balance.

“We will have celebrities, but it’s not celebrity driven,” Vieira says of the show’s format. The focus of the show, instead, will be on real people, featuring inspirational stories and topical issues. “And there will be games … A lot of games,” Vieira adds. “We want to have fun with the audience.”

6. Don’t Look Back.

Even though there were openings on her former shows recently, Vieira never considered going back to The View or Today. “I know when it’s time to go,” Vieira told us. “I’ve always tried to leave on an up. And I feel that I’ve done all that I can do. It’s funny … you really can’t go back home. Not that people aren’t embracing of it, but you know, you’re like the aunt that went away, so I know my place. And I love visiting. I’m going to be doing The Today Show, actually, with Matt [Lauer] on the day my show premieres [on Sept. 8th, featuring first guest Martha Stewart]. Savannah [Guthrie] will be out [on maternity leave].

7. Do Be Nice.

“The number one thing is be nice,” Vieira told us of her philosophy both on and off camera. “We don’t want jackasses. We don’t want the drama, we want a collaborative show, and if we fail, we’re going to have a good time doing it.”