Thursday, July 11, 2013 6:48 pm
Kris Jenner lives talk show 'dream' this summer
By LYNN ELBERAP Television Writer
"I'm definitely living my dream," Jenner said of Monday's launch of "Kris," a daily talk show getting a summer test run on Fox stations in a handful of major U.S. TV markets.
If Jenner proves her appeal with viewers, she can expect to join the swelling ranks of national daytime hosts that include reigning queen Ellen DeGeneres, newcomers Katie Couric, Steve Harvey and Bethenny Frankel and, on the fall TV horizon, Queen Latifah.
So what does Jenner bring to the talk-show table? As she explains it, a strong sense of what people want from her and "Kris," airing for six weeks in Los Angeles, New York, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Dallas and Charlotte, N.C.
"It's a day and date show. I think the audience wants to talk about things happening right now in popular culture," Jenner said. "It's going to be lighthearted - I'm not into doing depressing stories or sensational stories or hateful stories."
Her focus will be on pop culture, beauty, fashion, home design and fitness.
Jenner isn't a novice in the talk show game, with appearances and some guest-host gigs on programs including "The Talk," "Today" and "The View," said Stephen Brown, Fox Television Stations executive vice president for programming and development.
Viewers "have seen her sub in before (as a host), so they know she can do it. I know she can do it. That's why we designed the set to look like her house. In essence, she's inviting the audience into her home," Brown said.
That's the home made so familiar to viewers on the E! channel's "Keeping Up with the Kardashians," the oversized window on the lives of Jenner's big and growing family that includes new mom Kim Kardashian and North West, her daughter with Kanye West.
But "Kris" won't be an extension of the reality show that launched in 2007, Jenner insisted: "It's absolutely about the viewer. It's not a show about me and my kids."
That doesn't mean she's shutting them out. Daughter Khloe Kardashian-Odom will be among the daily co-hosts who will drop by (Joan Rivers, Sean "Diddy Combs" and Kathie Lee Gifford are on the list) and there's room for more members of the blended family.
Asked when North would make her public debut, Jenner said that remains to be seen. She said the new parents are "doing really, really great" and described the baby, born several weeks early on June 15, as beautiful.
As for the rest of the family's involvement in the talk show, "I think everybody, depending on what's going on in their universe, will come on and pay a little visit here and there. ... That's just the natural order of things in my house. It's like, `OK, mom's got a new project'" to support, Jenner said.
Besides, she said, through the many years of "Keeping Up," viewers "have really invested in our family and the whole relationship."
Jenner is a good match for Fox's lighter programming aimed at young adult viewers and should pair well with other talk shows carried by Fox stations, including "The Wendy Williams Show," said Bill Carroll, an expert in the syndication market for Katz Media.
Add in the experienced broadcasters who will join Jenner as guest co-hosts, including Tom Bergeron and Ryan Seacrest (the producer of "Keeping Up"), and "all those things bode well for the test," Carroll said.
While her family's fame and pop-culture reach have made critics wince at a society that rewards celebrity before achievement, they are an undisputed object of fascination with a combined 52 million Twitter followers and a total of some 60 million on Facebook and Instagram.
The audience of 3 million that tuned in for June's season debut of "Keeping Up" is slim by comparison, but it's a sturdy number for the cable show that's the starting point for all things Jenner-Kardashian.
As viewers and magazine devotees know, that means a focus on living an exciting, well-dressed life that can include chaotic personal relationships such as Kim Kardashian's short-lived marriage to pro athlete Kris Humphries.
But there's far more to the family empire than magazine headlines and multiple TV spinoffs. Besides product endorsements, there are ventures such as a teen clothing line from youngest kids Kendall and Kylie Jenner. Chalk it all up to the drive of Kris Jenner, 57, the "momager" who's spun an empire from the fabric of reality TV. Total revenues exceeded $65 million in 2010 and keep growing, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
That makes Jenner convincing evidence that skills developed on the home front translate nicely to the business world.
After a stint as a flight attendant, she married lawyer Robert Kardashian and, at age 22, gave birth to the first of her six children (three daughters and a son with Kardashian, whom she divorced in 1991 and who died in 2003, and her two daughters with second husband Bruce Jenner).
"I was the room mother and the Brownie leader and the soccer coach and the carpool driver. I was like a sponge, I was so excited to be doing what I was doing, passionate about my kids and family," she said. Add to that party-giving and decorating, done "sometimes on a budget, sometimes not on a budget," and Jenner emerged as one efficient multitasker.
Her business acumen was sharpened by those in her social circle, most notably music industry giant Irving Azoff who, luck had it, was married to Jenner's close childhood friend.
The first test of Jenner's ability to guide a career came when she married Bruce, the former Olympian who had turned to inspirational speaking but wasn't thriving.
"I started managing him. It was survival," said Jenner, who recalled admonishing her husband, "You're an amazing, fabulous speaker, why not have a more organized machine?"
Asked if her fans understand the hustle and discipline that's behind her glossy veneer (she's up at 4 a.m. to start her day with a workout), Jenner veers into a condemnation of what she calls the tabloid exploitation of her family.
"Tabloids will print any lie to sell a magazine. I used to give people I didn't know out there reading this stuff a lot more credit. I used to think, `Who would believe this?'" said Jenner, slipping briefly from her persistently upbeat tone into frustration.
She'd rather that people tune in to "Kris" (target audience: women aged 25 to 54) and let her tell the story of her family and the 50-something mother who leads them.
"I want to be an inspiration to somebody," Jenner said. "I want to empower people, especially young women, to feel like they can go out and get it and follow their dream and be successful at any age. ... I think that people that go through life need to be reminded that they can do it all, if they want it all."
AP Global Entertainment & Lifestyles Editor Nekesa Mumbi Moody in New York contributed to this report.
Lynn Elber is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. She can be reached at lelber(at)ap.org and on Twitter (at)lynnelber.