Ask Joy Behar how she got her new HLN gig, and she gives a simple answer. “They asked me to dance,” Behar jokes with TVNewser, “and I said, ‘Okay, I’ll dance with you guys!’”
Her boss, CNN Worldwide EVP Ken Jautz, is a little more specific. “She has a strong point of view, she’s an excellent conversationalist,” he says. “She’s a genuine star.”
The Joy Behar Show debuts tomorrow at 9pmET, part of a primetime lineup dominated by women hosts (think Nancy Grace and Jane Velez-Mitchell) who provide HLN with what Jautz calls “point-of-view programming.”
Opinion, Jautz says, positions the 27 year-old HLN as “something different from CNN” in order to attract “different audience niches.” He’s confident that HLN’s ratings growth — its average of 597,000 prime time viewers this year has more than tripled since 2004, a boost greater than “we had dared hope for”, says Jautz — has not drawn viewers away from its sister cabler. Jautz cites internal research showing “little overlap” among those who watch the two networks.
HLN’s rebranding, Jautz says, is “revolutionary” change that can be traced back to the introduction of Grace’s show five years ago. It was a move away from continuous news headlines, which Jautz felt viewers could easily access online. A year ago, HLN formally changed its name from CNN Headline News. Jautz says there are no plans to change HLN’s daytime ‘headline news’ format, but “that doesn’t mean there never will be.”
And so the addition of Behar is the latest tweak. She says she’ll give a daily “rant” about “something that’s bugging me”, and provide “an infusion of humor” when it comes to the serious news of the day.
TVNewser: What will the format of the show be like?
Behar: The beginning of the show is usually political. And then we will go into other stuff in the second half of the show. And then we’re going to have lots of guests, too — I have Bette Midler coming on the first night…
TVNewser: Do you think that men who may associate you with The View will consider this new program a ‘women’s show’? Or, might they tune in?
Behar: I don’t know…they might not even know who I am — they might come upon it and see something they like, and stay with it. I don’t really know — I can’t read men’s minds, I don’t know what they’re thinking!…
TVNewser: Would you describe yourself as liberal? Or how would you describe your political outlook?
Behar: I don’t know if I’m so liberal. I might be liberal. I’m liberal on some points. I’m definitely left of center — progressive is what they like to call us these days. I don’t really know what the label should be.
TVNewser: And your plan is to continue to have guests on the show who hold different political points of views.
Behar: I enjoy that. I do. I like that. We’ll have debates, and people on with all different points of view…people can slug it out! It’s very entertaining!
TVNewser: As you know, your time slot puts you up against your friend Larry King on CNN.
Behar: I saw him yesterday, in the makeup room, and we bonded — he’s coming to the launch party. He’s fine about my going up against him. He knows that he’s indestructible! [laughing] He doesn’t have to worry about me!
TVNewser: Any fightin’ words for him? [laughing]
Behar: Oh no, no, no, I don’t…I would never go there! He’s been very good to me, and let me sit in for him quite a bit, which probably has something to do with my getting this gig. I’m always grateful to him, and to Barbara Walters also, for allowing me to have that job.
TVNewser: So this isn’t Johnny Carson-Joan Rivers redux!
Behar: No, darling, this is not! I don’t like to burn bridges!
[This interview has been edited for length and clarity.]