Bethenny launches bid for national talk show

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — How could it not happen? Bethenny Frankel has a talk show.

Frankel, whose entrepreneurial reach includes reality TV, diet books and videos and a novel, will step into the role of daytime host when "bethenny" debuts Monday.

The show's six-city run on Fox-owned stations is aimed at winning a national niche. There are big names in Frankel's corner: Ellen DeGeneres, the show's executive producer, and Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution.

If the lower-case title for "bethenny" is taken as a sign of sudden timidity on Frankel's part, it's a misguided notion.

Frankel says she doesn't doubt she can meet the challenge as "bethenny" begins airing in the New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Dallas, Phoenix and Minneapolis TV markets (times vary; check local listings).

"I just kind of jump into things and have the confidence I can work it out. For me, it's been a really pleasurable experience," she said. "I find it exhilarating and inspiring to do it."

Yet success is far from guaranteed.

Frankel is entering a crowded field, one that will become more so with big names including Katie Couric and Ricki Lake preparing to launch talk shows later this year.

It's also a field littered with past flops, including shows with Bonnie Hunt, Megan Mullally and, on Oprah Winfrey's OWN channel recently, Rosie O'Donnell.

The goal, Frankel said, is to have DeGeneres "Oprah me," which means putting her "stamp" on "bethenny," as Winfrey did for protege hits "Dr. Phil" and "Dr. Oz."

That doesn't mean "bethenny" will be cut from "Ellen" cloth, Frankel said.

"Ellen has her own fan base and a very different conversation with fans than I do. She's not trying to make this a show like hers," she said.

DeGeneres, who is venturing into production of the first series outside her own, echoes Frankel.

"My advice to Bethenny is to be herself. She shouldn't be what she thinks a talk show host should be," DeGeneres said. "Bethenny is very outspoken, smart and witty and has strong opinions and the audience will relate to that or they will disagree and it will be a discussion."

Frankel, who gained attention as the "Skinnygirl" diet guru and through "The Apprentice," ''The Real Housewives of New York," and two reality shows of her own, is living the modern dream: she's a hot brand.

Her plan for her new TV venture is to offer "no holds barred" discussions of topics such as sexless marriages and how salary inequality affects relationships.

"It's what girlfriends talk about to each other, but in hushed tones in restaurants. Now we're talking about it on air," Frankel said.

(She's not your average gal pal. Forbes put her at No. 97 on its Celebrity 100 list with $12 million in earnings, while reports estimate she sold her Skinnygirl Cocktails line to Beam Inc. last year for $100 million.)

Celebrities will be part of the "bethenny" mix, but only if they can add to the debate, Frankel said. Among the first week's guests: Vanessa Williams, Kevin Nealon, Kate Walsh and, on Tuesday, DeGeneres.


EDITOR'S NOTE — Lynn Elber is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. She can be reached at lelber(at)



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