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Schlessinger Is Preparing Daily Syndicated Talk Show

TelevisionThe radio psychologist and author will host a show that is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2000.

May 06, 1999|JUDITH MICHAELSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Radio talk-show commentator Dr. Laura Schlessinger is adding another element to her media arsenal, announcing Wednesday that she will host an hourlong daily syndicated television talk show that is scheduled to be ready for distribution by the fall of 2000. Paramount Domestic Television will produce and distribute the show.

Flanked by Paramount Domestic Television co-presidents Joel Berman and Frank Kelly, she said, "It's not going to be a radio show on television, it's not a shrink show," but it will deal "with ethics and principle and morality in a very compelling and entertaining way."

The radio psychologist, who has become an icon of so-called traditional values, said she intends to discuss "my ideas and values and hopes for what our society can become."

Although the precise format is undetermined, Schlessinger said there will be no callers, but there will be a live audience. No decision has been made on whether there will be guests.

"You will not be seeing any 3-by-5 cards telling me what to say," said Schlessinger, who will also carry an executive producer title on the still-unnamed show.

All parties declined to discuss the terms of her contract.

"We're very excited. This is someone we've been attracted to for a while," Kelly said.

With some 18 million to 20 million listeners on 450 radio stations, and her books--including the most recent, "The Ten Commandments," co-authored with Rabbi Stewart Vogel--invariably becoming bestsellers, Schlessinger, 52, is one of the nation's hottest media properties. She has begun writing a series of children's picture books, with the first one, "Why Do You Love Me," No. 1 at Barnes & Noble nationwide after only four weeks. She is heard locally on KFI-AM (640) from noon-3 p.m. weekdays, and the radio show will continue.

But with fame and fortune has also come controversy, even ridicule. Only last Thursday night on an episode of NBC's "Frasier," Christine Baranski, in an obvious spoof, played Dr. Nora, who mocks and attacks callers who do not live up to her moral standards.

"Dr. Laura" herself has been the subject of tough magazine treatments including last September's Vanity Fair, which headlined: "Though [her] huge following is enraptured by the absolute certainty with which Dr. Laura passes judgment, Schlessinger's own life is a tangle of contradictions." In November, she went to court but failed to block a dozen nude photos from circulating on the Internet. The photos had been taken by a former lover 23 years earlier.

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After being attacked for hypocrisy, she wrote in her syndicated newspaper column: "Having once lived in a way that one now disavows on moral and ethical grounds does not make one a hypocrite; it makes one a teacher."

Thirteen months ago, Schlessinger was in discussions with Eyemark Entertainment, the syndication arm of CBS, to do a TV talk show but negotiations reportedly broke off after she learned the company was planning to distribute a TV show featuring radio shock jock Howard Stern.

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