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Q&A

That '70s Chemistry for a '90s Talk Show

September 20, 1998|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

They may be a little too long in the tooth to sing "Puppy Love" and "Paper Roses," but Donny and Marie Osmond don't seem much different from their days as the clean-cut teenage siblings on the '70s ABC musical-variety series, "Donny and Marie."

Now, 19 years after the series' demise, the pair are throwing their hats and well-known smiles into the talk-show ring with a new weekday entry, "Donny & Marie," which premieres Monday on KTTV.

Both Donny and Marie, who still love to tease each other, have had enduring single careers.

Performing since he was 3 with the Osmond Brothers, Donny later had great success on the legit stage, touring for several years in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat." This summer he was the singing voice of Shang in "Mulan." Donny, 40, is the father of five sons.

Marie, 38, and the mother of six, also has branched out into the world of musical comedy, touring in "The Sound of Music" and starring on Broadway in "The King and I." She also appeared in the ABC sitcom "Maybe This Time" and sells her line of Marie Osmond Fine Porcelain Collector Dolls at Disney Theme Parks and on QVC. She also is co-founder of the Children's Miracle Network, which has raised $1.4 billion since 1983 for medical treatment, research and assistance at children's hospitals.

Brother and sister talked on the phone from Philadelphia, just one of their stops in a nationwide promotion tour.

Question: So are you still a little bit country and a little bit rock 'n' roll?

Donny: That question has come up quite a bit!

Marie: Yes. I love country, absolutely. I love all music.

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Q: Have you both worked together a lot since "Donny and Marie" went off the air?

Donny: Not really. We did some touring a little bit.

Marie: It will be about 20 years since we worked together.

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Q: So what's it like reuniting after two decades?

Donny: It was actually quite interesting that everything just just kind of came back together. The chemistry we had back in the '70s just immediately popped back into place.

Marie: It's a very unique relationship when you have a sibling relationship because you can go places with your brother or sister that you never could with a co-host or a host or even if you are married [to the host].

Donny: The nice thing about the combination we have is that there is really no brother-and-sister team out there. So it's not really a copy of anyone.

Marie: The original "Donny and Marie" show came about because we had recorded an album together, "Leaving It All Up to You." This is many years ago. We were promoting that album and co-hosting "The Mike Douglas Show." That was where the chemistry was first seen--just us co-hosting and teasing each other. Fred Silverman, who used to be head of ABC television, saw us and said that [relationship] would be a great show. I think the chemistry has always existed. We have always been very close and we get along very well. As Donny said, we definitely have a male-female perspective on things.

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Q: How did the talk show happen?

Donny: This whole concept isn't new to us. We've been approached ever since we ended the "Donny and Marie" show to do something, whether it be another series or specials. The timing just didn't feel right. Marie and I wanted to pursue our own thing. Now that we have done that, the timing just feels really good. Columbia TriStar--their support of the show--and particularly with Dick Clark as our executive producer, it just felt right.

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Q: I'm sure you did "American Bandstand" with Clark.

Marie: Oh sure, absolutely. I was 12 the first time I worked with Dick. I did "Paper Roses."

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Q: Can you talk about the format of the show?

Donny: It's an entertainment-slash-talk show. But I think the main thing, without trying to overstate it, is the relationship that Marie and I have. What we want to bring is a little bit of a different twist to [the format] with our personality.

Marie: We want the wonderful celebrities. We want to have people who aren't necessarily celebrities but are very interesting. Suzanne, I think we have another interesting perspective in the fact that for 35 years we have sat in the other chair [on chat shows]. We started when we were three. It's a very interesting perspective to come from.

Donny: Did you just call her Suzanne? It's Susan.

Marie: I'm so sorry. I have a sister-in-law named Suzanne.

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Q: That's OK. Have you taped any of the shows yet?

Donny: We don't go on the air until the 21st and we want to keep it as current as possible. So we will just be taping the week prior, so we start on the 16th.

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Q: You already have so many built-in fans from the '70s.

Marie: Susan, it's very flattering. You had no idea at 14 how many people watched the show. A lot of people grew up with it, and we hope that they will all tune in.

Donny: I also would like to say, Suzanne, that we are in a fortunate position--that we have been in the business for 35 years and we're still going.

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Q: Marie, is it true that your husband and six children have moved out to Los Angeles from Utah to be with you?

Marie: With having that many children, for me to commute is really difficult. I need to see my kids every night. But Donny has a very difficult situation.

Donny: I had to keep my family in Utah because my second son just started his senior year [in high school]. My oldest son is in college.

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Q: It's so hard to believe you have a son that old. I remember when you and your brothers were on "The Andy Williams Show."

Donny: You're showing your age there, Susan. I still feel like I'm in my 20s, and I act like I'm in my teens.

Marie: He acts like he's 12.

Donny: Having children spanning from six months to 19 keeps me young.

Marie: He figures he'll grow up with them.

"Donny & Marie" premieres Monday at on KTTV.

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