“Technically this is my first 9-to-5 job!” joked Kelly Clarkson — the American Idol winner turned Grammy-winning pop star turned The Voice coach — during the first few minutes of her latest career venture, The Kelly Clarkson Show. The show itself opened with a music video of Clarkson performing Dolly Parton‘s rat-race anthem “9 to 5” with real women: Firefighters, mechanics, utility workers, policewomen and so on. And in the studio, Clarkson filled her audience with working women as well, “CEOs to homemakers,” she announced proudly. It was all in the service of reminding us that while today Kelly Clarkson lives the life of a wealthy celebrity, deep down she’s still a small-town girl who made good — and wants to give back.
The first episode of any daytime talk show is inevitably a little clunky. Hosts generally need to adhere to a time-tested format while adding some personal touches and offering their mission statement — answering the “Why do we need another talk show?” question that dogs every premiere. After a delightful bit of silliness — Steve Carell introduced the host, 40-Year-Old Virgin Style — Clarkson explained that her show is about “connections,” a vague but pleasant-sounding term that could mean a variety of things, and likely will as the show continues to evolve. “Each of us has the power to make a profound impact on another person,” said Clarkson, adding that she wants her show to foster a “spirit of community, connection, and fellowship.”
It’s a theme that ran throughout the first episode, from the celebrity interview — Clarkson and her guest, last-minute fill-in Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, talked about gratitude journals and staying grounded — to the “Rad Human” segment, in which Clarkson welcomed Sharon Strauss, founder of the Sunshine Pantry in Beaverton, Ore. As an interviewer, Clarkson is a bit hyper and excitable; at times, Johnson, a media pro, had to steer the conversation during their sit-down. But the singer will no doubt settle with more time and practice, and her emotions and enthusiasm come across as completely genuine. When the townspeople of Beaverton came to salute Strauss and deliver the $300,000 they raised to relocate the Sunshine Pantry, I believed every one of Clarkson’s tears.
The Kelly Clarkson Show looks to be aiming for a slightly more homespun version of Ellen, mixing feel-good altruism and light silliness. The host looked the most at ease during a remote segment when she walked around her new “neighborhood” — the Universal lot — and handed out bundt cakes to her neighbors, including a hardworking crossing-guard and the hosts of America’s Got Talent. At one point someone gave her a T-shirt gun, and she fired it off with delight and snappy one-liners (“Say hello to my cotton blend!”). The more The Kelly Clarkson Show can indulge its host’s goofy sense of humor, the more connected her viewers will feel. B