Simon Vozick-Levinson
January 31, 2008 AT 12:00 PM EST

Word just got out that The Montel Williams Show is being canceled after 17 years, prompting a stunned nation to ask, “Wait — Montel Williams is still on the air?!” Seriously, though, an unscripted talk show got the ax in the middle of an intractable writer’s strike — that’s just harsh.

Here’s a more vexing question: Who deserves to take Montel’s spot in the daytime-talk pantheon? Personally, I’m thinking it would be great to shake things up with a less obvious candidate. Bear with me here. I’m getting an image of Gabriel Byrne teasing out guests’ innermost feelings with an endless array of intelligent, probing questions — but maybe that’s just because I was totally riveted by his performance on In Treatment last night. (I missed Monday’s and Tuesday’s eps, though, so I can’t speak to Annie’s complaints.) Or how about Daniel Day-Lewis? His Ledger-related breakdown on Oprah last week showed he’s got empathy to spare in a talk-show format, and we know he’d really sink himself into any part he takes.

Perhaps these are unrealistic choices. Okay, they definitely are — and the fact that I can’t remember the last time I was able to watch a syndicated daytime talk show all the way through is showing. Any of you PopWatchers have any brighter ideas, preferably not involving majorly intense actors from the British Isles?

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