Joan Rivers was the surprise Emmy winner for best daytime talk-show host this year, and The Joan Rivers Show is a better showcase for her funny edginess than her doomed 1988 Fox nighttime program was. The best thing about her daytime talker is that Rivers’ stream-of-consciousness chattiness is allowed to guide the show — you never know where the conversation is going to go.
Rivers books her share of product-plugging celebrities, but she’s beginning to specialize in more unusual guests. Recently, for example, there was a transsexual who believed she was eight months pregnant. Rivers had a doctor come on and perform an ultrasound test, right there on the air. He heard no fetal heartbeat. Rivers said to her guest, ”Now, don’t be upset. If you have this baby, you call me from the hospital and we’ll come out and see you.” The tone of all this was very odd, a mixture of humor, humiliation, and pathos.
The Rivers show began broadcasting live in May. One day recently, Geraldo Rivera was scheduled to run a taped interview with two National Enquirer writers who claimed to have some dirt on Roseanne Barr and her husband, Tom Arnold. The Rivers show took advantage of the fact that it generally airs earlier than Geraldo: The couple appeared live with Joan to reveal everything the tabloid writers were going to tell Geraldo, then denounced the writers and their publication. If I had been remotely interested in this sort of thing, it would have made my day. As it was, I was just very impressed with the Rivers show’s enterprise. B