In 1989, the syndicated Arsenio Hall Show did what countless network shows couldn’t: It proved that someone could compete with Johnny Carson and survive. So this season, as Carson nears his May retirement, syndicators will take aim at him — and at Oprah, Arsenio, Sally Jessy, Dave, Joan, and Geraldo — with a glut of talk show comers all hoping to become the next big Mouth.
Already airing is The Ron Reagan Show, an hour of smart, topical conversation. But if Reagan falters, plenty of competitors can step in. The Maury Povich Show promises a peek at the former A Current Affair host’s rarely glimpsed warmer side, in a format its producers vow will avoid tabloid bombast in favor of videotaped reports and in-studio guests. The Love Connection‘s matchmaker, Chuck Woolery, is likely to take an even huggier approach on his self-titled daytime celebrity talk show; and although Jenny Jones is known for barring men from her stand-up comedy performances, they’ll be in the audience-and undoubtedly will be a frequent topic of conversation — on her new weekday life-style series, originating from Chicago. After years of appearing live from New York as Saturday Night Live‘s ”Weekend Update” anchor, Dennis Miller will sharpen his wit on guests when his own nightly series arrives in January. And Phil Donahue, while continuing his own daytime talk show, will have the home-court advantage when he also faces Soviet commentator Vladimir Pozner in their weekly political hour Pozner & Donahue (it’s live from New Jersey).
All talk shows, no action? Hardly. Connoisseurs of the fistfight are directed to Street Justice, where seldom is heard a pacifist’s word as long as Rocky‘s Carl Weathers is around to deal vengeance. Just as intimidating are the six good-hearted but homicidal heroines of Dangerous Women, a twice-weekly nighttime serial set in and near a state penitentiary. And newcomer Wolf Larson becomes the latest actor to climb a vine in a revival of Tarzan, in which Jane (Lydie Denier) is a biologist, the villains are eco-terrorists, and the mood couldn’t be more politically correct if Kevin Costner were wearing the loincloth.
But syndication’s most notable new series is an old one: An updated version of the sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati begins Sept. 14, as a new ensemble joins returning regulars Gordon Jump (station manager Arthur Carlson), Richard Sanders (reporter Les Nessman), and Frank Bonner (ad salesman Herb Tarlek). Loni Anderson and Howard Hesseman will also appear in the two-part premiere.