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Are daytime talk shows dying?

Are daytime talk shows dying? Experts say it’s up to Dr. Phil and ”Rosie”’s Caroline Rhea to revive the slumping genre

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Phil McGraw
Dr. Phil: Scott Weiner / Retna Ltd USA

Talk TV is getting mighty quiet. Both Rosie O’Donnell and Oprah Winfrey have announced their retirement (O’Donnell at the end of this season; Winfrey in 2006) and their competition is floundering in the Nielsen ratings. Ratings for both ”The Jerry Springer Show” and ”Montel” have slid 25 percent since last year, and ”The Sally Jessy Raphael Show” (down by 20 percent), was just canceled. Suddenly, talk doesn’t seem so hot. Where’s Phil Donahue when you need him?

Actually, Donahue’s sensitive male chatter may be just the answer. Although daytime talkers appear to be undergoing a drastic dip in popularity, some media analysts suspect it’s simply a matter of Springer and his tacky ilk wearing out their welcome. ”They basically air boot camp for wayward teens, ‘Is This Really My Baby?,’ makeovers, reunion, then they repeat the formula over and over,” says Bill Carroll, programming consultant for Katz Television Group.

So it’s not a huge surprise that this fall’s slate of daytime talk shows is a lot more upbeat and, well, grown up. Rob Nelson, who founded the Gen X political action group Lead…Or Leave and hosted the Fox News Channel’s ”Full Nelson,” is being touted as a hipper take on Donahue, emphasizing social issues and encouraging thoughtful conversation instead of chair tosses.

Another chatfest with a similar format (and getting the same Donahue spin) will be hosted by crime stopper John Walsh (”America’s Most Wanted”). A daytime variety show from Wayne Brady (”Whose Line Is It Anyway,” ”The Wayne Brady Show”) is also in the works, as is ”Beyond with James Van Praagh,” a John Edwards-style ”I see dead people” show.