Steve Harvey promises to ‘think like a man’ on chatfest
BY LORI RACKL TV Criticfirstname.lastname@example.org September 4, 2012 9:04AM
Steve Harvey, right, welcomes a bad dater named Mike during a taping of the Steve Harvey talk show at the NBC Tower, 454 N. Columbus Dr., Friday, August 24, 2012, in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times
2 to 3 p.m. weekdays on WMAQ-Channel 5. For tickets, visit steveharveytv.com.
Updated: October 5, 2012 6:05AM
Minutes before Steve Harvey walked onstage to tape the premiere of his talk show, his warm-up man was hard at work, prepping the audience.
You never know when the cameras might catch you, comic Rubin Ervin warned the mostly female crowd, so sit up straight in your chair. Don’t let your mouth hang open. Clap loudly. React to what’s being said onstage. And when Steve comes out, Ervin said, “I need you crazy like a Walmart sale, day after Thanksgiving.”
Crazy is something this studio in Chicago’s NBC Tower has seen plenty of. The former home to Jerry Springer and Jenny Jones is now a sleek, inviting set filled with honey-colored wood, softly lit columns and potted orchids. The studio underwent an expensive transformation for its new master, who’s done some changing of his own in recent years.
A former insurance salesman and Ford Motor Co. employee, Harvey moved into stand-up comedy and then TV, radio, movies and more recently, books. He used to fantasize about having his own late-night talk show where he could be edgy, a bit bawdy.
“I don’t even fit in nighttime anymore,” Harvey, 55, told his studio audience in a candid chit-chat before the cameras started to roll. Dressed in a dapper suit and sporting his trademark ’stache, Harvey talked about reconnecting with his faith. Going through a bad divorce. Getting married in 2007 to his third wife, Marjorie, with whom he shares seven kids.
“I’ve evolved into a very dedicated husband; I wasn’t always,” confessed Harvey, who retired from a 27-year career in stand-up after a final show in Vegas last month. “Daytime fits me now.”
“Steve Harvey,” his nationally syndicated, hourlong chat fest, launches at 2 p.m. Tuesday on WMAQ-Channel 5, a week before the airwaves get bombarded Monday with a trio of new daytime talkers from Katie Couric (3 p.m. on WLS-Channel 7), Jeff Probst (2 p.m. on WBBM-Channel 2) and Ricki Lake (3 p.m. on WFLD-Channel 32).
So what does Harvey bring to the increasingly crowded talk show table?
“I’m just a very real person,” he said during a phone interview from New York, where he’d flown to appear on last week’s “America’s Got Talent” results show.
“My frankness and openness are going to be refreshing,” he said. “And it’s a male perspective. That’s missing in daytime television, having a man share with women some of the thoughts from a man’s angle, but coming from a guy who’s also very empowering for women. And I’m going to be pretty funny.”
Harvey, a best-selling author who’s fashioned himself into an advice-giver, said he wants his show to focus on real people, not celebrities. (Comedian Kathy Griffin also swore off celebs when she launched her primetime talker on Bravo earlier this year, but the Oak Park native quickly changed her tune in the face of low ratings.)
Harvey’s multi-topic shows will touch on marriage, dating, money, parenting, workplace issues and the like, with the goal of being uplifting, encouraging and entertaining.
“When you have regular people and not celebrities on these shows, it’s more relatable,” Harvey said, admitting that he harbors a short wish-list of celebrities he’d one day like to welcome on his set: Oprah, Celine Dion, Jay-Z and Beyonce, Tiger Woods and televangelist Joel Osteen.
For the show’s first episode, the guest line-up is more modest. Harvey features a 24-year-old guy named Mike, dubbed The Worst Dater in America. Cameras follow Mike as he goes on a series of dates. Harvey reviews the footage, going over Mike’s multiple mistakes (i.e., bringing up bowel movements and exes on a first date).
Courtship and romance are a few of Harvey’s favorite subjects. His 2009 book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man sold more than 2 million copies. It served as the basis for the recent rom-com movie “Think Like a Man.”
His second book, Straight Talk, No Chaser: How to Find, Keep and Understand a Man, debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times Bestsellers list in 2010.
Harvey wrote the books for his daughters, which brings up another topic in his wheelhouse: parenting.
One of the segments in the Tuesday premiere deals with the trend of “over sharenting,” when parents are guilty of TMI when it comes to their progeny.
Harvey gently takes to task an over-sharenting guest, a young mother fond of posting lots of not-so-flatting photos of her kids on Facebook.
Former “Bachelorette” Ali Fedotowsky (we won’t count her as a celebrity) also pops in to talk about places people can go in different cities to impress their dates. Ali suggests River North’s speakeasy-style bar, Untitled, for Chicagoans.
It took more than two hours to tape the hourlong episode, thanks to the pressure of this being the premiere and an inordinate number of “pickups,” or do-over shots, which seemed to wear on the host. At one point, Harvey joked about getting it over with so he and the audience wouldn’t have to be there all day.
Harvey’s eagerness to get ’er done is understandable; he’s running a close second to Ryan Seacrest for the title Hardest Working Man in Show Business.
He wakes up at 4 a.m. to host his nationally syndicated radio program, “The Steve Harvey Morning Show,” recorded from 5 to 9 a.m. weekdays at a studio in NBC Tower. (The show airs in Chicago on V103.) Then it’s off to the gym before his 10:30 a.m. meeting with the talk show staff to go over the day’s programs, taped at 12:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.
“It’s a lot of work with the producers, going over ideas,” Harvey said. “I’m not really accustomed to that. I don’t do any prep for my radio show. For my stand-up, I wrote the jokes. I didn’t have to check with anybody. When you do a talk show, you’ve got to check with a lot of people.”
One of those people is three-time Emmy Award winner Alex Duda, the show’s executive producer. She’s plenty busy herself. The creator of the Style Network’s “Jerseylicious” also produces that show’s spin-off, “Chicagolicious.”
When Harvey finishes taping his daytime talker in May, it’ll be back to his gig as “Family Feud” game-show host in Atlanta, where he’ll blitz through taping 180 shows in six weeks.
Harvey and his family still have their house in Atlanta, but they’ll be spending most of the year in their new home, Chicago. He and Marjorie recently moved into a downtown penthouse along with their two youngest children, Lori, 16, and Wynton, 15.
“We’ll be in Atlanta from May to August and, God willing, we’ll come back to Chicago,” Harvey said, adding that the decision will depend on those almighty ratings.
“The network says they’ll be doing cartwheels down the aisle if I can get a 2 share,” he said. “A 1.8 — they’re OK with that. A 3? Everybody’s naked.”