Even with three decades of TV experience under her belt, including 13 years as host of ”Today” and 11 as host of ”Dateline NBC,” Emmy winner Jane Pauley is about to become the new kid on the block all over again. Her syndicated talk show, ”The Jane Pauley Show,” launches on Aug. 30. (Check local listings for stations and times.) We talked to Pauley, 53, about why she thinks she can avoid the fate of such dearly departed Oprah wanna-bes as Sharon Osbourne and Carnie Wilson.
THE SHOW’S GONNA LOOK GOOOOD Not only will Pauley’s set be warm and homey, but the filmed segments will carry all the visual punch of any prime-time show. ”We wanted incredibly high production values, which is why Michael Weisman is our executive producer,” she says, noting that the 20-time Emmy winner has previously produced 13 World Series, five Super Bowls, and one Summer Olympics. Beat that, Oprah.
SHE KNOWS WHAT YOU WANT Like Oprah and Phil Donahue before her, Pauley will be sticking to one topic on each show. ”You can define that as several different takes on a topic over the course of the show,” she says. She’ll tackle subjects like health issues, aging parents, kids, maintaining friendships, and even organizing your lingerie. ”A show topic might have a lofty reason behind it, or it might be more my own personal agenda,” she says. ”But I want viewers to come back to the show every day thinking, ”You know, I got an idea from watching this show. And I will never look at my underwear drawer the same.”
SHE KNOWS YOU LOVE HER ”I meet young people who say things like ‘I used to watch you with my mom in the kitchen in the morning’ or ‘I grew up with you,”’ she says. ”So I have a huge advantage, I think, in having a connection with people. And even if I don’t, I think I do. That’s going to feel safe. And if I feel safe and comfortable, it’s going to be good television.” Pauley, who has three children with cartoonist Gary Trudeau, says that maintaining some privacy actually helped build that connection with her fans: ”By not making my private life an open door, I think people had a lot of respect for the life I’ve lived. There has been a perception that television wasn’t my life, that there was a family involved, and it was important.” Guess Kathie Lee Gifford didn’t get that memo.
SHE’S HANGING WITH HER HOMEGIRLS Like Oprah, Pauley will make interaction with her audience a large part of her show. ”I’m going to be in a studio with 150 people, not counting people watching me at home,” she says, ”and most of them are women who have some kind of life experience similar to mine. What I love is that I can dip into my experience as a woman and share it and develop it.” Wonder if that includes her underwear drawer.
SHE’S NOT AFRAID OF CANCELLATION ”I don’t even think about the failure rate,” she says. ”If this show fails, I still get credit for having been brave enough to try it. And I define success as the day I really had the courage to say, ‘I want to do that, and I’m going to try it.”’