The daytime talk show failures the networks didn’t want you to know about

TV execs are sick of losing their shirts on crap afternoon programming

By Tim Townsend

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that some big TV broadcasting companies, sick of paying big bucks for failed Hollywood-produced daytime talk show fare, will start looking for their own new Oprahs and Ellens.

Daytime TV is a tough sell, and station owners have been clobbered by recent chat show duds like those helmed by big names: Anderson Cooper, Katie Couric, Queen Latifah.

Since the 1950s, television executives have tried to capture the daytime TV market. Some have struck Dr. Phil gold, but others backed the wrong horse and watched it gallop into ratings hell.

“Pollock & Ranger”

In 1953, CBS launched what it thought would be a genre-crossing hit that would attract men looking for an afternoon testosterone pick-me-up, and women who wanted a side of masculine sensitivity with their soap operas. (The CBS ad campaign slogan for the show: “It’s Mantastic!”)

The pairing of the Lone Ranger and artist Jackson Pollock lasted just two episodes. In the unpromising pilot, the two men — who had clearly never met before — argued about gun control. The Lone Ranger relayed an oft-heard message from his show that guns were a last-resort measure to be used only against violent outlaws, namely Butch Cavendish. Pollock said guns were “fine, all the time, wherever.” Their guests, including Charlie Chan, never made it to the stage.

On the second episode, the pair discussed a major television event the night before when ⅔ of American TVs tuned into I Love Lucy to see Lucy give birth. CBS cut the signal (and cancelled the show) when Pollock — who had pounded a fifth of Beefeater before the show — asked a guest, famed pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock, if there was any way nursing breasts could lactate oil paint.

“Ponch!”

Hoping to surf the massive success of “CHiPs,” NBC created a daytime talk show in 1978 starring Officer Frank “Ponch” Poncherello, the show’s hero played by Erik Estrada.

The original concept was simply to give Estrada the show, but in early rehearsals, producers noticed that the actor was dumb. In a panic, they quickly reframed the concept around the Ponch character and insisted the show be exclusively about driving in Southern California.

Guests on the first episode included Rick Boggs, owner of Alhambra Motorcycle Repair — about 11 miles from downtown L.A. if you take Route 10 east and get off at South Garfield it’s on your right just after Mission — and Judge Wendy Sieving of the Los Angeles Superior Court, Traffic Division. There was no second episode.

“Sync Up! With Rob & Fab”

Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus had been stripped of their Best New Artists Grammy in November 1990 after admitting they actually had nothing to do with the music part of their musical endeavor. Producers at VH1 decided to focus a Milli Vanilli comeback effort around the group’s best-known song, “Girl You Know It’s True.”

The show’s conceit was simple: A woman from the studio audience was invited to sit on stage with Morvan and Pilatus. Producers had previously done background checks on all members of the audience, and so fed Milli Vanilli information about the selected woman through headphones. The duo then repeated accusations of minor legal transgressions to the woman. If she denied them, Morvan and Pilatus simply “sang” their horrific song at her until she began crying or fled the stage.

VH1 pulled the show after the first three women filed harassment lawsuits against VH1 parent company Viacom.

“Let’s Von Dutch!”

Before he sold “Punk’d” to MTV in 2003, Ashton Kutcher peddled a fashion show to Bravo, which had recently revamped its programming efforts from Didn’t Know It Existed to So Unbelievably Annoying.

Trucker hats were a major big deal thing in 2002, and Kutcher worked a deal with clothing brand Von Dutch to pay for a Bravo show all about them. He also convinced Avril Lavigne to host the show, wearing a “World’s Worst Astronaut” trucker hat.

The first episode included a segment in which Lavigne visited a mesh factory in Taiwan, an interview with Ashlee Simpson promoting her new Rob Schneider comedy The Hot Chick, and a sit-down with Rick Boggs, owner of Alhambra Motorcycle Repair — about 11 miles from downtown L.A. if you take Route 10 east and get off at South Garfield it’s on your right just after Mission.

Lavigne quit the show after one episode for reasons that ranged from “I hate it” to “I hate you” and “fuck off,” according to her publicist.

“The Tan Mom Show”

TMZ Studios shopped a six episode package of “The Tan Mom Show,” starring Tan Mom Patricia Krentcil, to TV station owners in 2013. Only one station, My9NJ | WWOR near Krentcil’s hometown of Nutley, New Jersey picked up the show, which featured Tan Mom interviewing celebrities as they broiled themselves in a Luxura X10 ProSun International tanning bed.

Early guests included Channing Tatum and Bruno Mars, who each talked about the positive influence of ultraviolet radiation in their lives. WWOR abandoned the show after a Very Special Episode 3, during which Tan Mom took advantage of a teaching moment. After Christina Aguilera got stuck in the Luxura X10, Tan Mom counseled her audience that “severe, second-degree burns can really help conceal hyper-pigmentation and tighten sagging.”

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