The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1994, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Monday, September 12, 1994             TAG: 9409120237
SOURCE: Larry Bonko 
                                             LENGTH: Long  :  166 lines


THE LIST OF PEOPLE who do not have a television talk show will be whittled down this month when Suzanne Somers, Marilu Henner, Jon Stewart, Susan Powter, Australian-born journalist Gordon Elliott, former NBC legal correspondent Star Jones and two people you probably never heard of before - Dennis Prager and Bill Handel - bring their syndicated babble to TV stations in Hampton Roads.

Don't you get the feeling that in the not-too-distant future anyone who wants a TV talk show will have one?

I mean, if Ricki Lake can have a TV talk show, why not Marilu Henner?

Both women are so. . . deep.

WGNT, an independent station soon to be part of the Paramount network, signs on with three new gabfests today starting with ``The Suzanne Somers Show'' at 11 a.m., followed by ``Marilu'' at 1 p.m. In between, you get Lake and her angst-ridden young guests. At 10 p.m., Channel 27 introduces William and Mary grad Stewart to a prime time audience accustomed to watching Arsenio Hall.

Stewart describes himself as a perennial 16-year-old with a nose than that can sink a battleship. He swears he can rattle off the storylines of every ``Gilligan's Island'' episode. He first made his mark as a stand-up comic and then as host of a talk show on MTV.

He's every bit as hip as Arsenio.

Somers already has a TV show, a sitcom called ``Step by Step'' on ABC. Now this - a talk show, too. Isn't that asking for fatigue?

She says she never gets tired.

``We do the ABC show in three days,'' she said, ``which leaves me more than half the week with nothing to do with my creative energy. So, why not a talk show?''

Somers' show will have a different twist for a daytime talker: a band. ``And on my talk show, we won't get into the rat race of sleazy topics. I'll do a show brimming with heart, compassion, hope, liveliness and friendliness.'' What? No cheating husbands? Ungrateful brats? Policewomen posing for Playboy?

I'll believe it when I don't see it.

WGNT didn't stop its buying spree with just the three new talk shows. Not by a long shot. The bosses at the Portsmouth station also bought a fistful of action hours including ``Lonesome Dove,'' to begin on Sept. 30 at 8 p.m., ``Sirens,'' starting at 9 p.m. on Sept. 23, ``Forever Knight,'' to premiere Saturday at 10 p.m., ``Hightide,'' to premiere Sept. 25 at 5 p.m. and ``Hawkeye,'' beginning on Sunday at 1 p.m..

Earlier in the summer, WGNT put two shows from producer Aaron Spelling in prime time, ``Heaven Help Us'' and ``Robin's Hoods.'' Busy. Busy.

``Sirens'' is probably rattling around in the memories of you couch potatoes out there because it was a cop show about three feisty women. Critics liked it when it was on ABC two seasons ago.

The series about life on the streets in Pittsburgh is back, with Adrienne-Joi Johnson, Liza Snyder and Jane Heitmeyer in the leading roles.

``Hawkeye'' is what you suspect - a series based on James Fenimore Cooper's frontier hero. A buckskin-clad Lee Horsley is the lead. Lynda Carter, whose career has been brought back to life by those campy ``Wonder Woman'' reruns on the fX channel, is cast as a courageous pioneer. Ever heard of a gutless pioneer?

Stephen J. Cannell, the producer who generally gives us shows from the mean streets (``The Commish,'' ``Silk Stalkings,'' ``Renegade,'' ``Cobra'') gets involved with the French and Indian Wars here.

After two miniseries, is there still life in the ``Lonesome Dove'' franchise? Executive producer Suzanne dePasse thinks so because she is bringing back the Newt Call character to national TV. The series begins in 1925 with the elderly Newt recalling his days of adventure in the Montana territory.

Scott Bairstow plays Newt.

With ``Acapulco Heat'' out of production, WGNT shopped around for another hour of sand, sun and surf, and found it in ``Hightide,'' starring Rick Springfield, George Segal and Yannick Bisson.

``Forever Knight'' casts Wyn Davies as a 13th century vampire who works as a crime fighter - only at night, of course. This vampire would gladly give up immortality to be like the rest of us. Surrender immortality? Would you?

At WTVZ in Norfolk, the programmers were nearly as active as their counterparts at WGNT this summer, buying up globs of new syndicated shows. Among them: ``Trauma Center,'' which starts at 10 p.m. on Saturday, and ``Space Precinct,'' scheduled to begin in October. Also on the menu: reruns of popular network shows including ``The Simpsons'' and ``Fresh Prince of Bel Air.''

Do I have to tell you what ``Trauma Center'' is about?

No actors, scripts or narrators in this series. You and the camera follow doctors and patients in life and death situations. The people who do ``Cops'' produce this show, so it ought to hold your attention.

``Space Precinct'' brings us cops in outer space, starring Ted Shackelford and Rob Youngblood. Freeze, you Klingons! Ooops. Wrong sci-fi show.

Susan Powter, that loud woman with less hair than an eight ball, has landed her own talk show, which will be on WTVZ at 9 a.m. Monday through Friday starting Monday. She's been the queen of the infomercials.

But will viewers want to see her day after day after day? Or will they scream ``Stop the insanity''?

WGNT is bringing back ``Love Connection'' Monday through Friday at 2 p.m. after WTKR dropped it. Starting at 6 p.m. on Sunday, you'll be able to see the ``Beverly Hills 90210'' saga from episode No. 1 on Channel 27.

And there's a new show on WGNT that fills that groove somewhere between ``Beverly Hills 90210'' and ``Melrose Place.'' It's called ``Boogies Diner'' - six twentysomethings learning about life and stuff while working in a mall. It airs Sundays at 12:30 p.m., starting this Sunday.

Other premieres on Channel 27 this month include ``Coach'' on Monday at 6:30 p.m., ``Sightings'' at 7 p.m. on Saturday, ``Super Dave'' at 11:30 p.m. on Sept. 24 and ``The Entertainers'' on this Saturday at 1 a.m.

Among WTVZ's new programming is a late-night show ``The Newz,'' which signs on at 11 a.m. There hasn't been any chat on the Fox affiliate since Chevy Chase folded his tent. To balance the scales against Rush Limbaugh's conservative politicking, Channel 33 will follow Limbaugh at 12:30 a.m. with a talk show hosted by a political moderate, Dennis Prager.

The ``newz'' is that there is a new look to late-night programming in this market starting tonight.

After ``Nightline,'' WVEC is airing ``Last Call,'' and when David Letterman's ``Late Show'' signs off at 12:35 a.m., WTKR is showing a program that is Warner Brothers' answer to Paramount's ``Entertainment Tonight.'' The show is ``Extra: The Entertainment Magazine.''

Earlier in the day, WTKR is stripping in ``The New Price is Right'' at 4 p.m. Monday through Friday followed by ``Family Feud.''

The producers of ``The Newz'' describe their show as random acts of senseless comedy. It's an ensemble doing sketch comedy inspired by the headlines of the day.

``Last Call'' sounds like more of a comedy show than a talk show. A young cast picks up on what's happening in the world and has fun with it.

WTVZ also signed up ``The Road'' to air Sunday at 10 p.m. starting Sept. 25. It's not about truckers. It's about the day-to-day life of such country music stars as Vince Gill, Reba McEntire and Clint Black.

Go behind the scenes on concert day.

WAVY did right much tinkering with its morning schedule.

The NBC affiliate booked ``Donahue'' at 9 a.m. after WTKR dropped Phil Donahue in favor of Geraldo Rivera. Following ``Donahue'' at 10 a.m. on WAVY starting this morning is Gordon Elliott's talk show. He's trying to make it big in the United States after achieving stardom as the Mike Wallace of Australia.

He promises an uplifting tone for his talk show. First show: mothers who choose their daughters' dates.

``We won't be ripping off the emotional scabs of the participants,'' he said. Promises. Promises.

At 11 a.m., WAVY will air ``Judge for Yourself'' with a host (Bill Handel) who is an attorney. You hear the cases. You play juror. You call a 1-900 number with your verdict. Might Handel put O.J. Simpson through a mock trial?

``We'd do that,'' he told TV reporters in Los Angeles recently. ``Our show is the perfect forum. It will let you know how people are feeling about this topic.''

At 12:30 p.m. beginning today, WAVY continues courting viewers. What a dreadful pun! Former NBC correspondent Star Jones hosts ``Jones & Jury,'' which has Jones presiding over disputes in small-claims court that are for real.

She's the '90s Judge Wapner.

Question: Suppose you got used to seeing Nancy Glass hosting ``American Journal'' on Channel 13 after ``Nightline'' signed off? Now that ``Last Call'' is in that time spot, is Glass gone forever from late-night TV?

Nope. WVEC has scheduled ``American Journal'' for 1:05 a.m. It's the same show that aired at 5:30 p.m. earlier in the day.

Be advised that your humble columnist has not been sent preview tapes of any of the new syndicated programming except ``Boogies Diner,'' which I liked.

We will be discovering the rest of the new syndicated shows together. ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

Suzanne Somers gets her own talk show starting this morning at 11 on


B/W photo

Adrienne-Jol Johnson, from left, Jayne Heitmeyer and Liza Snyder

star in "Sirens," which will air at 9 p.m. starting Sept. 23.

by CNB