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Tavis Smiley is landing back in TV talk show land

August 18, 2003|Greg Braxton | Times Staff Writer

Almost three years after being fired from his nightly talk show at Black Entertainment Television in a controversy with his then-boss, commentator and author Tavis Smiley will launch a national late-night talk show on PBS.

"Tavis Smiley," billed as the first West Coast talk show for PBS, will originate from KCET Studios in Hollywood starting in January, and will be paired weeknights with the network's long-running "The Charlie Rose Show."

"I've wanted to wait until I found the right deal to bring me back to television," Smiley said Friday. Smiley currently hosts a talk show on National Public Radio that is the network's first series to be based in Southern California and what it calls its first signature show to be hosted by an African American.

"Working for public television is something I never would have thought of a few years ago," Smiley said. "But the success of the radio show has made me see the value of public radio and public television. It has the ability to empower and entertain people, and that's exactly what I strive to do."

The TV series, Smiley said, will feature discussions with politicians, newsmakers and celebrities. "I want to bring an energy that is more youthful and more diverse to public television," he said. "We're really going to raise the energy level."

Mary Mazur, KCET's executive vice president of programming and production, said the new project is significant as a local forum that will contribute to discussions of national issues.

The new show is likely to have some similarities to Smiley's former talk show, "BET Tonight," which he hosted for five years. In 2001, Smiley was booted by BET Chairman Robert Johnson when he aired an interview with former Symbionese Liberation Army member Sarah Jane Olson on ABC. BET said it deserved first refusal of the exclusive.

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