Daytime talk show was hard sell for Steve Harvey



NEW YORK — Steve Harvey played hard-to-get before deciding to become a daytime television talk-show host.

The veteran comic, whose new show gets a jump on the fall season Tuesday, was first approached about a show three years ago when his first book, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, was on the bestseller lists. The television production company Endemol thought the idea of Harvey giving women advice from a man’s point of view made a perfect theme.

Harvey said no, thanks.

He had a thriving stand-up career he wasn’t ready to give up and a popular morning radio show broadcast across the country. Harvey also thought his suitors were trying to limit him.

“They just wanted to make a relationship show and I didn’t think that was rich enough,” Harvey said. “I don’t think you can do five years, five days a week just talking about who likes who.”

Harvey instead signed on as host of the game show Family Feud. His success there made producers want him more, said David Goldberg, the chairman and CEO of Endemol North America.

Goldberg tried again, and this time sealed the deal. Steve Harvey is Endemol’s first-ever talk show in the U.S., and it is competing in a tough market with new talk shows also starting this fall starring Katie Couric, Ricki Lake and Jeff Probst. A partnership with NBC’s top stations, where Harvey’s show will air back-to-back with Ellen DeGeneres, gives him a fighting chance.

Harvey feels more comfortable with the idea of trying daytime. He should: There are few surer routes to riches in the television business than a successful syndicated show. He said he feels more comfortable asserting himself in molding the show’s direction.

“Look, I was leery about being able to maintain who I am,” he said. “Not so much the edginess, but I really wanted to be frank on TV. I really wanted to say what I say. I’m happy if you’re a guest on my show, but if you sit over there and say something that I don’t think is cool for me or my listeners, I’ve got to reserve the right to say so. Just because you’ve got this book doesn’t mean you’re right about everything.”

Harvey said he has pushed show producers to go beyond the theme of his book in exploring ideas. One that he’s borrowed from his radio show is about forgiveness, asking people carrying a longtime grudge to unburden themselves.

Harvey, a father of seven, can draw on plenty of experiences.

“I’ve been unemployed, homeless, had a lot of jobs, been dirt-poor and out of it and been pretty successful,” he said. “Married a few times, bad credit, good credit, tax troubles, no tax troubles. I’ve just about been through it all.”