It’s a mess at CBS’s “The Talk,” the struggling replacement for “As the World Turns.” What’s going on backstage is worse than a soap opera. I am told varying things about the second season status of co host Sharon Osbourne — a source says she will come and go over the first 14 weeks, but her time will add up just to 8 weeks. Another source says she’ll do six weeks and exit completely. In any case, viewers will see a lot less of her when the new season begins on September 6th.
Other outlets have already reported that co hosts Holly Robinson Peete and Leah Remini, who were popular and brought audience from their sitcoms, are out. It’s true. Sources say feelers have gone out to Kirstie Alley, Brooke Shields, and Lauren Sanchez as possible replacements.
A lot of the blame for so much acrimony is aimed at main host Julie Chen. One reason is that host of “Big Brother” and former anchor of “The CBS Early Show” is married to Les Moonves, head of CBS, and is an easy target.
Chen has become a lightning rod for controversy backstage. It’s ironic, too, since “The Talk” is tangled in incestuous relationships: Holly Robinson married football star Rodney Peete sixteen years ago at the Brentwood, California home of Les Moonves and his first wife, Nancy. Moonves’s attorney brother, Jonathan, represents Chen, Remini, and current exec producer Jonathan Redmann.
“Julie has destroyed all the relationships,” says a source. (Full disclosure: I see Julie Chen often in social situations and have found her to be quite charming, actually. But I don’t work with her.)
On the other hand, the network is said not sorry to see Leah Remini leave. She’s described as combative and not much of a team player. “She can be fairly abusive in meetings,” says a source. Remini is said to have a loose development deal with CBS following her hit run in “King of Queens.” That will likely end, too.
Chen has her supporters. One source insists she’s been “a total pro” and the “glue that keeps everything together. She does her homework.”
But there are the naysayers, and the list of grievances is long. According to sources, Chen has not been much of a team player. She missed Robinson-Peete’s July 23-24th charity fundraiser in L.A. “Everyone else from the show came, even Ozzy Osbourne.” When CBS wouldn’t give “The Talk” a first season wrap party, Peete hosted it at her house. Everyone came and chipped in, except for Chen.
Chen, say supporters, thought Remini and Peete were too used to the star treatment and big budgets of prime time and sitcoms. “Julie didn’t care about a wrap party. She just wanted a second season renewal.”
There is also talk of a hosts-only dinner at the Polo Lounge in the Beverly Hills Hotel for exec producer Redmann. One account has Osbourne and Redmann literally going for each other’s throats.
What seems to have happened over the course of Season 1 is that Remini and Peete bonded first against Osbourne, and then with her against Chen. Chen, the only journalist on the show, tried to stay above the fray. But one source said she was miffed that Peete got exclusive interviews with Oprah Winfrey and Justin Bieber.
Then, of course, there was the constant turnover. Since “The Talk” first replaced “As the World Turns,” it’s had three executive producers. CBS’s long time head of daytime, Barbara Bloom, left the network. Numerous reports cited Chen as the reason.
Sharon Osbourne, a source claims, told the network early on that she wanted out of her six year contract. One source says terrified show creator Sara Gilbert, a cohost, just before going live one day in March, that she was announcing her departure right then and there. She was calmed down, but then told Chen she wanted a more flexible schedule. “She said she’d go on Piers Morgan and tell all,” says a source. (Osbourne’s press rep refused to respond to emails or calls.)
The result: a compromise that will let CBS can find replacements for her, Remini, and Peete. As it is, when the show reappears on September 6th, only Chen, creator Sara Gilbert and a waffling Osbourne will be in place. Guest hosts will have to be brought in. Former guests like Kathy Hilton, Paris’s mom, have already indicated they want a shot.
“We know the clock is ticking,” said an insider.
Here’s an idea: bring back “As the World Turns.” In 54 years, they never had this kind of turmoil. And it was easier to tell the heroes from the villains.