Tavis Smiley gets new show on PBS

Friday, December 26, 2003

LOS ANGELES -- A sign that Tavis Smiley's new PBS talk show is not standard-issue for public television: The set was created by tennis star and aspiring designer Venus Williams.

That's just the start. Smiley, returning to TV less than two years after he was canned by BET, says his daily late-night series debuting in January will be more than visually striking.

"Tavis Smiley," PBS' first West Coast-based talk show, will be fast-paced and aimed at drawing a younger, more ethnically diverse audience than typically watches public TV, its host said.

Smiley, whose punchy, baritone and pointed questions are familiar to his growing National Public Radio audience, is ready to get back on the tube. (His radio program will continue.)

Bill Cosby, Democratic presidential contender Wesley Clark, Newt Gingrich and Magic Johnson are among the first week's scheduled guests. The series begins Jan. 5.

It will be paired in many markets with Charlie Rose's talk show but audiences will quickly see the difference, Smiley said. While Rose tends to devote his hour-long show to one or two guests, "Tavis Smiley" will offer three segments in half the time.

Smiley said he wants his audience to consider issues from new viewpoints and addresses overlooked issues.

"I want to use this show, as I try to do on my NPR show, to introduce Americans to each other. In many ways, we still live in a very segregated country."

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