Only the brave or the bored venture into the uncharted territory of daytime television. It's a jungle out there.
Have you watched daytime TV lately? Formerly the domain of soap operas and game shows – both of which still hold a high daytime presence – the morning and afternoon broadcast schedule has expanded via syndication and cable to the point where it's now fit to burst with oddities.
But with the onset of cold and flu season, it's inevitable that some time in the near future, many of us will find ourselves at home on a work day, stuffy-nosed and bored, and scanning up and down the dial seeking substance. These five new daytime offerings should merit your attention, if not your subsequent DVR loyalty.
Anderson (CBS, 3 p.m., CTV, 5 p.m.) is, of course, the new daytime talker helmed by CNN news anchor Anderson Cooper. In literally every single interview he's done to promote the show, Cooper has stressed that he's decidedly not trying to be the next Oprah. White-haired man speak with forked tongue.
There's a very strong Oprah vibe on Anderson, which veers wildly between lifestyle choices and breezy celebrity worship. At best, Cooper's choice of show topics is erratic.
Some days it's dead serious stuff. His exclusive interview with the still-grieving parents of pop star Amy Winehouse was sensitive and provided heretofore personal insight into the life of the recently deceased musician.
To delve into the subject of suicide, Cooper interviewed his own mother, socialite Gloria Vanderbilt, and shed real tears when discussing his brother's 1988 suicide.
And then, star time! To date, Cooper has gone for a spray-on tan with Snooki of Jersey Shore and enjoyed a breezy girl-talk session with Sarah Jessica Parker. Comedian Kathy Griffin, with whom Cooper hosts CNN's annual New Year's coverage, spent a weekend at his summer house in the Hamptons with cameras rolling.
The only flaw to the Anderson format is that it unavoidably devalues the newsman gravitas of Cooper, who unexplainably continues to appear on CNN nightly. A fortnight back, it was unsettling to watch him hand out free puppies to members of his studio audience in the late afternoon, and then watch him report on events in Libya a few hours later.
The Chew (ABC, CITY-TV, 11 a.m.) is new and the effective replacement for the soap All My Children on ABC's daytime lineup. Certainly there are plenty of foodies in the world, but who knew they had their own talk show?
The Chew, as the title suggests, focuses wholly on food and general American gluttony. The roundtable format features several Food Network personalities – chefs Mario Batali, Michael Symon, Carla Hall among them – though it's not entirely clear which one is the host. Also tossed into the mix is What Not to Wear's Clinton Kelly and nutritionist Daphne Oz, daughter of Dr. Oz.
But what's that old saying about too many cooks? The show purports to promote sound nutrition and affordable eating, but in the end, it's just another cooking show and the five co-hosts all talk at once and practically elbow each other to show off their cooking prowess. On the day I watched, Chef Batali burnt the pizza.
Infinitely more palatable – and Canadian to boot – is the new cooking series In the Kitchen with Stefano Faita (CBC, 3:30 p.m.). Meet the heir apparent to Madame Jehane Benoît.
He's quite the charmer, this Stefano, who has previously hosted two highly rated cooking shows on Quebec television and penned two bestselling cookbooks. On this show, Faita maintains a folksy style and his recipes are usually interspersed with engaging personal stories about growing up in a cooking family. When someone is truly passionate about food, it shows.
And when a tabloid-TV host hits on a recipe, he sticks with it. The Jeremy Kyle Show (syndicated, 5 p.m.) is the U.S. version of a talk show that has aired to top ratings in Britain since 2005. If it's already crass, don't fix it.
Apparently the American viewing audience still loves car-crash TV in the daytime. In the same vein as The Jerry Springer Show or The Maury Povich Show – both still airing new episodes five days a week – The Jeremy Kyle Show exists to plumb the lower depths of the human condition for its storylines.
More to the point, it's Kyle nodding sagely and refereeing as people tell their sordid personal stories to the world for an appearance fee and a night's stay in a hotel. Today’s topic: “How could your choose your girlfriend over your son?” Tomorrow, paternity results and lie-detector tests. Oh, no, you didn't!
And the most recent entry to the daytime arena practically beggars description: Last Shot with Judge Gunn (syndicated, 2 p.m.) is the TV breakout vehicle for real-life judge Mary Ann Gunn, an Arkansas circuit-court judge who has apparently presided over 1,200 trials, most of them drug-related.
As you can probably guess, Judge Gunn is a tough cookie – the intro shows her riding a Harley and driving a tractor – but she's here to show hopeless drug addicts the error of their ways.
Like Judge Judy and other legal-themed shows, Judge Gunn holds her court in a TV studio, not a real courtroom, but the accused are expected to fully abide by her ruling.
Each episode introduces a new offender, usually someone on his or her last legs because of drug abuse. Most outings feature Judge Gunn delivering a sharp lecture to the participants, followed by rehab and some form of community service to teach them a lesson. America's war on drugs now unfolds on daytime television.
Check local listings.
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