Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage:
The discussion at the panel for CBS’ new daytime talk show The Talk– featuring the six co-hosts, executive producer Sara Gilbert, Leah Remini, Julie Chen, Holly Robinson Peete, Marissa Jaret Winokur and Sharon Osbourne – seemed to focus mostly on the fact that Gilbert is a lesbian, particularly, a lesbian who failed to acknowledge her partner and co-parent in the press materials for the new show, even though the other women’s husbands were mentioned. Another question that has been raising a lot more controversy received far less attention: the fact that co-host Chen – who already has two high profile jobs as co anchor of CBS’ “Early Show” and the U.S. version of “Big Brother” — is married to Les Moonves, president and CEO of CBS Corp.
Gilbert said that she wasn’t comfortable having her sexual orientation be part of a press release, but that it would definitely come up in the show. “That came from me, CBS would write whatever I wanted,” she said. “I’ve been acting all my life, and never discussed my personal life…I will do it here but a press release is so impersonal. “ And, she added when asked whether it was easier to “out” as a talk show co-host than as an actress: “I don’t know, I don’t really think of things as out or am, I am when I am (share) when things seems right. “ (By the way, in answer to another question about being out about things, Leah Remini said she’s on the show to speak as a mom, not as a member of the Church of Scientology.)
Earlier at an executive session, CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler denied that Chen was chosen because of her marriage to Moonves. During the panel discussion on the new talk show, a tepid question or two was asked of Chen about the Moonves thing, but she skated out of the topic by immediately saying how flattered she was to be asked by Gilbert and on to gush about having a 10-month-old child at the ready to provide fodder for the show. And when the panel were asked, one by one, to address their pet peeves about their husbands, she joked that she would have to be very careful with her answer if she didn’t want to find the show canceled before it went on the air. She joked about how hubby Leslie has an annoying tendency to wake up the baby when he gets home by touching him, even if he’s just been put to sleep. Ha ha. But after the session, when reporters gathered around her with followup questions, Chen was a little less flip and a little more frank about what some would see as a whopping conflict of interest.
At first, Chen talked about how she was excited about being on the show because, for the first time, she would be able to express opinions on things – a no-no for a newswoman. “I think most people think of me as this “Chen-Bot, “ no personality, “ she said. Up until now, in all my jobs, I haven’t been allowed to say what I thought about things because it wasn’t proper to. And people will think, either she has no personality, no point of view, or they’ll see what they want to see: ‘She wore black today because she doesn’t agree with the war and she’s in mourning for all the soldiers today.’ They’ll get to see how I really feel about everything from A to Z, I’m going to say it, and that’s refreshing. “
But will she able to be honest about Moonves? “In all honesty, I will probably have to have a chat at home with Leslie, and say you know what, whatever you say about your life is off limits, or the company — I get that, that’s not cool,” she said. “But I have to be able to say what I feel about everything else, and I think he respects that.”
On getting the job in the first place, I had to sleep with Nina [Tassler]’’ she joked. But on a serious note, added that people have been wondering whether her marriage has advanced her career for a long time – and probably always will. “The truth is, I know me, and if I wasn’t me I’d be saying the same exact thing. It’s a fair thought to have, and all I have to say is tune into the show, if you think more of me great, if you think less of me great, “ she said. ‘They’ve already thought it, so it can’t get any worse than it already has been. When we got married, me being a news person, working for the company, everything that can be said, has been said, it can’t get any worse. “
She added that the marital connection provides no extra job security. “Not at all,” she said.”This is what he said to me: ‘Babes, most of these things don’t work out.’ I said: “You mean this might be over in 13 weeks?’ Yikes – then I shouldn’t have left “The Early Show.” (By the way, she’ll still have a presence on that show but probably on taped segments, she will no longer be an anchor due to the demands of the new talk show.)