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'Loveline' Is a Radio Show and a Television Show

Media: The popular program finds its place on the small screen, mixing humor with serious discussion.


"It's a radio show, not a TV show." That was the skeptical attitude that greeted Dr. Drew Pinsky and Adam Carolla when they met the press last fall to discuss the impending expansion of their popular "Loveline" talk radio show into television.

"When we did interviews, they were usually about, 'How are you going to turn it into a TV show?' " recalls Pinsky as he and Carolla settle in for another encounter with a reporter on the Hollywood set of their new MTV program.

To the two hosts, "Loveline" is perfectly suited to the television medium. Carolla and Pinsky firmly believe that the teen- and young adult-oriented information and advice program is as telegenic and involving as any other talk show currently battling it out in the late-night TV wars. (The hour program airs weeknights at 11:30 p.m.)

"Think about what our competition is," argues Carolla, 32. "It's Letterman, Leno, Jerry Springer. . . . What is that? A host and a couple of celebrities sitting around. What is this? Two hosts, a celebrity, people phoning in, [a roving interviewer] out in the audience. . . ."

As a television entity, "Loveline" is unusual, however, in its emphasis on young callers and audience members who solicit advice about their various sex, relationship or substance abuse problems. The celebrity guests--who are usually Generation X-friendly actors or MTV-associated musicians--are there mainly to offer guidance and opinions rather than to talk about themselves and their careers.

The TV show is a streamlined and somewhat less graphic version of the "Loveline" radio program, which began airing on KROQ-FM (106.7) in 1983 and is also syndicated in 40 other U.S. markets. Pinsky and Carolla host both versions of the program.

Both the radio and TV programs mix irreverent humor with serious discussion. Carolla is a comedian who cut his teeth performing with Los Angeles' Groundlings and Acme improvisational groups. Particularly on the TV show, his role is to toss out the quick quips and cutting comments.

Conversely, Pinsky, 37, known to the show's followers as Dr. Drew, is the earnest dispenser of information and advice. A board-certified internist and addictionalogist, he joined "Loveline" about a year after it first kicked up its heels as a weekly program on KROQ.

"To me, TV is just another medium to try to communicate with people and to try to create an environment where people can change their behavior," Pinsky comments.

"Drew understands that he needs Adam to be entertaining, crazy and funny in order to draw [young people]," says Scott Stone, who co-produces the TV show along with his Stone Stanley Productions partner, David Stanley. "But Drew is the license that allows us to do what we do. The response we usually get is, 'Adam is really funny, but now I have a question for Dr. Drew.' "


The topics "Loveline" deals with--from a 24-year-old man's compulsion to have sex in public to an 18-year-old woman's complaint that her boyfriend views her too much as a sex object--are ripe for exploitation. Pinsky acknowledges that in the wrong hands, the TV program could have ended up like a "Jerry Springer"-type circus where the overwhelming intent is to titillate. He believes both versions of "Loveline" achieve a healthy balance between fun and responsibility.

The TV version isn't as leisurely paced or as spontaneous as the free-flowing radio show. Partly to accommodate callers in different time zones, the TV show is taped rather than aired live. Stanley says the program receives about 800 calls and 1,000 e-mail messages each broadcast night. Selected respondents are then contacted and arrangements are made for them to be available over the phone at a time when the program is being taped.

Says Stanley: "Because it's taped, if we hit on a question or response we have a problem with, we take it out. We tend to be a little tighter reined [than the radio show in terms of what's acceptable]. And MTV does have their own broadcast standards."

The TV project has suffered numerous setbacks since Stone Stanley Productions was hired by KROQ in 1995 to bring the radio program to the small screen. The TV version was originally slated to feature Pinsky and Riki Rachtman, who was then co-hosting the radio program. The project suffered a blow when Rachtman decided not to take part in it just eight days before the pilot was due to be filmed.

Pinsky recommended Carolla as a replacement. The part-time boxing instructor and former construction worker was known for his comedic portrayal of a character named Mr. Birchum on KROQ's Kevin and Bean morning show. Carolla's audition wowed Stone and Stanley as well as KROQ management, which immediately added him to the "Loveline" radio team.

Soon after, in January 1996, Rachtman left the radio show for his current gig as the host of his own program on KLSX-FM (97.1).

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