Steve Harvey keeping it real with new daytime TV talk show

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"You can figure out the economics," Wert said. "If the show's successful, we're going to be paying some other landlord versus paying ourselves over time. So that conversation started making a lot of sense."

What didn't make sense, but certainly helped, was last winter's balmy weather. NBC and Endemol flew Harvey's wife to Chicago to visit in February, "and it was 68 degrees and sunny," Wert said.

"Never happen again. But she fell in love, too, with it. I give Marjorie and Steve credit for relocating their family to do this, committing to Chicago."

What being "in" means for Harvey is a condition that might be called overemployment, even after he retired from stand-up in August. This, he said, is his new schedule: "I get up at 4 o'clock in the morning. I'm on the air at the radio station at 5 a.m.

"I come here at around 9-something. I work out for an hour. I shower. I meet in what we call our board room meeting. We sit down and hack over the two shows for that day. I do the shows. And then after that we start over and do it again. My weekends are free because I retired from stand-up. We'll live here until May. When May is up, we go back to Atlanta and we tape 'Family Feud' from May until August. And then we come back here, late August to May again. And let's hope we get to come back."

Riding on the show's success is more than just Harvey's place of residence. The production comes with more than 100 new jobs, the show says, not to mention a new destination for Chicagoans looking to taste some limelight. (For tickets, visit steveharveytv.com.) Success is by no means guaranteed, but Wert, who has been through many talk launches, says there's a good, comfortable feeling around this one. 

Duda, who also executive produced Tyra Banks' talk show and, more recently, the reality shows "Jerseylicious" and "Chicagolicious," is banking on the multitopic format and Harvey's uniqueness in the marketplace. Ellen DeGeneres is also a comic, but her focus is more on celebrities, while Harvey will approach relationship and other life issues with an emphasis on real people. 

Harvey's goal, he said, is to find space to be funny, be himself, but also to give people something valuable they can apply to their own lives. 

"When you tune in to 'Steve Harvey' starting Sept. 4, it's going to be inspirational, it's going to be uplifting and it is going to be funny," he said. "That's the take-away from it. Even my radio show (recorded in the NBC Tower and carried locally on V103) is uplifting and funny and inspirational. You know, daytime TV, I can't reinvent the wheel here. There are themes on daytime TV that are like must-haves."

When reminded that the previous occupant of his studio had also started out with hopes of high-mindedness, at least until the ratings came in, Harvey said he will stick to his guns, keep running a positive show. 

"This ain't 'Springer,'" he said. "I'm not that as a person. I never was, and, really, the person I've evolved into is even further from that. I'm not gonna ever do that. If the ratings go down that bad, then we're just out of work, and I'll have to go do something else, probably have to go back to stand-up."

That spirit was in evidence during the taping. As Duda held the cue cards, a level of hands-on involvement you won't see from many executive producers, Harvey balked at reading a script that had him say the show had surveyed 100 audience members to get responses for a "Family Feud" segment.

"We just started this show, we're lying already," he said, suggesting that the audience in the studio had taken no such survey. "I just don't feel comfortable lying."

The crowd laughed at Harvey's discomfort; he even read the script one time with the addition of a barnyard epithet meaning "not true," but it seemed genuine. 

Only when he was assured that such a survey had taken place, even if it was not with that specific audience, did he settle down.

"I just don't like when it ain't real," he told the crowd. "That's pretty much why they hired me, to put some realness in daytime TV."

sajohnson@tribune.com

Twitter @StevenKJohnson

Other entrants in daytime field

"The Ricki Lake Show" (3 p.m., WFLD-Ch. 32; 11 a.m., WPWR-Ch. 50): Show treating health and lifestyle issues, marking Lake's more upscale return to daytime.

"Katie" (3 p.m., WLS-Ch. 7): Former "CBS Evening News" anchor and "Today" host Katie Couric plans to chase newsmaker interviews for a show that reunites her with former "Today" executive producer (and former NBC network boss) Jeff Zucker.

"The Jeff Probst Show" (2 p.m., WBBM-Ch. 2): "Survivor" host (and movie director) makes a bid to be ladies' daytime friend while covering pretty much the same range of topics as other daytime shows.

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