Latest Cog in the Promo Machine : Television: Just like ‘Entertainment Tonight,’ ‘John & Leeza From Hollywood’ is the mother’s milk of press agents.
Overflowing with celebrity puffery of its own, “Entertainment Tonight” has opened an annex at 10 a.m. weekdays on NBC.
“John & Leeza From Hollywood” premiered Monday on Channels 4, 36 and 39, pairing “Entertainment Tonight” co-host John Tesh and second-string host Leeza Gibbons on a talk show whose primary objective appears to be the celebration of celebs and their latest projects.
There’s less to “John & Leeza,” it seems, than meets the ear. For one thing, this is one of those shows where you repeatedly hear wild cheering and screaming off camera, but when the camera pans the studio audience, the phantom cheerers and screamers are curiously absent. For another, the show’s conversation immediately vanishes like thin vapor, the only exception in the first two episodes being Tuesday’s amusing segment with radio personality Mother Love. And finally, you’re automatically distrustful of a show spewing so much verbal ooze.
Just like “Entertainment Tonight,” this chip off the old block is the mother’s milk of press agents. From Sylvester Stallone (on “the set of my new movie, ‘Demolition Man’ ”) to Paul McCartney (the day before his live concert from Philadelphia on Fox) to “Jurassic Park” director Steven Spielberg (near the “Back to the Future” ride at Universal Studios), the unpaid promos came fast in the first two episodes.
The level of scoop here was typified by this exchange Monday between Gibbons and McCartney. Her: “As always, you got your wife and daughter with you. How they doin’?” Him: “Fine.”
McCartney was succeeded on camera by former “The Cosby Show” kid--and now rapper--Raven-Symone. “Congratulations,” Tesh said after the 7-year-old lip-synced her way through the “world premiere” of her single, “That’s What Little Girls Are Made Of.” Showing what he was made of, Tesh added: “Great stuff.”
Well, of course. Everything here was “great stuff,” including “Cliffhanger"stuntwoman Georgia Phipps, who initially spoke to an allegedly surprised John and Leeza Monday from atop a tower on the Paramount lot, where the show is taped. “It meant a lot to us for you to be here on our opening day,” Tesh told the obscure performer when she returned at the end of the hour. Yadda yadda yadda. The words just sliiiiiiiide out.
It’s the show’s entertainment guru, toadie-to-the-stars Sam Rubin, who most epitomizes the worshipful tone of “John & Leeza.” There is something about an “Arnold"--be it Tom, Roseanne or that Schwarzenegger guy--that makes Rubin go weak in the knees. On Tuesday, he trumpeted Roseanne’s new line of apparel (“stylish, sturdy and affordable”).
When we checked in with Rubin last week, though, he was working his other day job on “The KTLA Morning News,” having his omelet cut by Arnold Schwarzenegger during a televised breakfast chat about super-salesman Schwarzenegger’s new movie, “Last Action Hero.”
It was the propaganda that stuck to his ribs. On Monday’s “John & Leeza,” before addressing the Burt Reynolds/Loni Anderson split, Rubin set America straight about Arnold and rumors of problems concerning “Last Action Hero”:
“You may have heard reports of a test screening a few months ago that was a disaster,” Rubin began. “Well, Arnold himself wants you to know that those reports aren’t true. He told me, and he wants me to tell you--and, of course, one does whatever Arnold asks--that this supposed screening never took place.”
Rubin then gabbed to Tesh and Gibbons about the breakfast with Schwarzenegger, even mentioning how Arnold cut his eggs. This was Monday, remember. Yet on Tuesday’s episode, a weird thing happened when Rubin announced that he would be having breakfast with Schwarzenegger “tomorrow,” as if, like the disputed test screening of “Last Action Hero,” his breakfast with Arnold had not taken place. Either this was a botched editing job by the show, or stress from working two TV jobs had caused Rubin to snap.
In any event, “John & Leeza” is big on celebrities, low on credibility. Hasta la vista, baby.
In an apparent attempt to make “John & Leeza” look brilliant by comparison, KNBC is preceding the new NBC series with its own even baggier-pants act at 9 a.m. “Hosted by . . . " is the station’s latest attempt to plug this time slot with a live local show for possible national syndication.
Almost exulting in its oafishness, “Hosted by . . . " comes across as if it were scribbled on a note pad by producer Dottie Archibald on the way to the studio each morning.
The format calls for a different celebrity host each day to interview other celebrities of their choice and take calls from the public. Monday’s human sacrifice/ host was Emma Samms, soon-to-depart star of ABC’s “General Hospital.” Before engaging in a duel of praise with “General Hospital” co-star Anthony Geary, she struggled unsuccessfully to engage John Candy in conversation. It was painful to watch, for Candy, a grand farceur when working from a proper script, got that facing-a-firing-squad look in his eyes when confronted by a live camera. A more merciful show would have given him a blindfold, if not better questions:
Samms: “Why has success not affected you the way it has affected other people?”
Candy: “I have no idea.”
Largely, “Hosted by . . . " has no idea, no hint, not a clue, spending much of its time just trying to figure out the phone lines. Whatever it is, though--and unlike “John & Leeza"--there’s an honesty and unpredictability here that projects a raw charm.
“Hosted by . . . " improved dramatically Tuesday, thanks to host Jackee Harry--a dynamic talking machine--and the rapport she established with guests Della Reese, Joe Regalbuto of “Murphy Brown” and comic Cathy Ladman.
“All I can say,” the endearing Harry quipped, “is Oprah, look out, honey.” On the other hand, most of the calls to the show are either tediously reverential or setups from pals of the host or guests. And the format virtually dictates inconsistency, the level of success tied to the caliber of each host. Jackee Harry was a winner. On the off days, though, bring a pillow.