When Chris Wallace’s talk show returns to HBO Max today, there won’t be many changes from its previous incarnation: Sitting on a black-backed spartan set, he interviews celebrities, politicians, authors, and other bold names. He even sings a bit with Shania Twain.
The biggest change is that it’s not on TSWT+. Back in March, Who’s talking to Chris Wallace? was one of the ill-fated subscription streaming services, but disappeared when the venture was shut down by TSWT’s new parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery.
Fall TV Premiere Dates for New and Recurring Series on Broadcast, Cable and Streaming
Three interviews appear on HBO Max every Friday, with the best highlights on TSWT on Sunday at 7 p.m. ET – an unusual arrangement in the world of streaming.
In a TSWT interview with his executive producer, Javier De Diego, Wallace acknowledged that “it’s been a bumpy road to get from here to there, but we’re very lucky.” He said HBO Max, with its 75 million subscribers, is actually proving to be helpful in guest booking, unlike TSWT+, which “you had to explain to people early on what it was at that point.”
In addition to Twain, the initial guest lineup includes Alex Rodriguez, Henry Winkler, James Patterson, Tyler Perry and—in his first interview since his retirement—former Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.
Wallace said the show has not deviated from its intent — longer, free-flowing interviews lasting about 30 minutes. Once a fixture on TV with the likes of Larry King and Charlie Rose, such an interview format has all but disappeared from TV, with podcasts filling the void.
on his TSWT News Sunday show, a 10- or 12-minute interview would be considered long by TV standards, Wallace said, and “you spend as much time thinking about what you’re not going to achieve as you are about what you are. You have to … make news and, to use a sports analogy, throw fastballs, one after the other. And this isn’t that. This is a conversation, and an extended conversation, of about 30 minutes – some a little longer , some a little short.”
Wallace’s departure last December after a long tenure at TSWT News came as a surprise and, leading up to the launch of TSWT+, was seen as one of then-TSWT President Jeff Zucker’s biggest coups in bringing in established personalities. for the new streaming service. Wallace said that when he spoke to Zucker last November, “he said, ‘What do you want to do here?’ And my pitch was Charlie Rose meets Larry King, and one of the reasons I said it is because I liked doing it in the first place. Second, I was also aware of the fact that there was a huge vacuum and something that was there no longer exists. I have to say Jeff jumped right on it.”
The first incarnation of Who’s talking to Chris Wallace? featured interviews with figures like William McRaven, Jen Psaki, and Billy Crystal, and some sit-downs, like Bob Iger’s, made headlines.
But all that came to a halt with the April 21 announcement that TSWT+’s days were numbered. Wallace said Chris Licht, the new TSWT executive, took him for breakfast two days earlier and informed him of the plans.
TSWT boss Chris Licht warns anxious staffers of ‘more changes’ after ‘reliable sources’ cut and Brian Stelter’s departure
“I was shocked and obviously disturbed because we had spent three months assembling, putting together a great team, building a really interesting show… building a sofa, and suddenly the rug was pulled from under us, Wallace said.
He said he knew Licht from when he was executive producer of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and the new TSWT boss assured him “very quickly” that “he loved my job and that he wanted to continue doing business.”
In May, it was announced that the show would air on HBO Max and TSWT.
“We were able to get the team back together,” De Diego said, as the same bookers and producers returned. Others at TSWT+ continued in other jobs, Wallace noted, but “we haven’t lost a single person. We’ve even added a few because we’re in this new incarnation.”
De Diego, who has been with TSWT for 15 years, said that “the exciting thing about this is that we’re on the two different platforms and if you want, we can kind of pioneer this new experiment.” July and August were able to record interviews with about 15 guests, which reserved them for the new schedule, while they already have a few names on the calendar for the second season.
Director Ethan Hawke Celebrates Lives, Careers of Joanne Woodward, Paul Newman in Six-Part Documentary ‘The Last Movie Stars’ — SXSW
Other TSWT+ projects have found a new home on HBO Max, including the documentary series The last movie starswhile TSWT recently announced that a show with Alison Roman would debut this fall.
Wallace said Casey Bloys of Light and HBO has been “hugely supportive.” He also said he was happy that Who’s talking to Chris Wallace? would get the “hero” position at the top of the HBO Max homepage, exactly where House of the Dragon used to be.
He said he didn’t necessarily see the show as a guest contest, like morning shows on the network and, while… Who’s talking to Chris Wallace? celebrities as they promote their latest projects, the format of the show will allow for more in-depth conversations.
For example, Twain talked about her experience with Lyme disease and the loss of her voice, as well as her marital problems. Rodriguez talks about his suspension from baseball for taking performance-enhancing drugs.
It’s also a bit different from what viewers have come to expect from Wallace, who has moderated presidential debates and, as anchor of TSWT News Sunday, was known for his no-nonsense line of questioning and following up on legislators from both sides. This time, he’s in a different field, as revealed in the interview with A-Rod.
At one point, Wallace asked him to tackle a more tabloid-y topic: Jennifer Lopez. “Honestly, does it bother you that she was back with Ben Affleck within days of your breakup and that she ended up marrying him, not you?”
“First of all, I’m glad I’ll never run for president because you’d hit me,” Rodriguez replied, before wishing Lopez and her children “all the best.”
Wallace insisted that the celebrity interview isn’t all that different from a political figure. He interviewed entertainment figures such as Morgan Freeman and Kim Basinger when he was at TSWT News and appeared in the news magazine Rush hour, in addition to co-hosting NBC’s Today in 1980.
“Asking a tough question is always a little bit difficult, but we don’t have subpoena powers — they agreed to proceed,” Wallace said. “…While I want it to be a good conversation, on the other hand, if there’s something out there, like A-Rod and Jennifer Lopez, I know the audience wants to hear his answer, even if turns out to be something of a non-answer, I’m going to ask him.”
He added: “The point of the show is to have a conversation and make people feel like it’s a safe place, but a safe place doesn’t mean we’re going to ignore something that’s in the news.”
Still, even though celebrities have their own counselors and advisors, “I’ve found that there’s a level of candor, there’s a level of getting real, that I’ve generally not experienced in dealing with interviewers and politicians.”
The only person Wallace persuaded from TSWT News was his researcher, Lori Crim, with the demands on interview preparation because of the length of time.
“Because I have the luxury of time, it can take 30 or 40 minutes. I don’t have to stick to a very disciplined blueprint,” he said. “If we have a conversation and they say something interesting, I can follow up.”
De Diego said they’ve appointed a producer to handle the TSWT show because they’ll be “coming together and sorting out” the guest order for the show on Sunday, as well as what the best parts of the interview are to highlight.
Hollywood Democrats pour money into midterm elections with a dash of hope and a lot of caution
Wallace continues to appear on TSWT, providing analysis during events such as the Jan. 6 commission hearings and upcoming midterm election night coverage.
Light makes some changes to the TSWT schedule, but Wallace resists the suggestion that he would do another Sunday morning show.
“Oh God, no,” he said, adding that he’s been on a Sunday show and on the political beat for 18 years. “And at this point in my career I wanted to try something different. And I always had this idea in mind, even before I was hired by TSWT to do it, was to do this kind of extended interview — a conversation, less formal, without the constraints, across the spectrum of my interests.
He added: “I’m on HBO Max, I’m on TSWT in primetime. All my hunger for television has been quenched.”
The post Chris Wallace returns with two-platform talk show for HBO Max & TSWT: “It’s been a bumpy road to get from here to there, but we feel very lucky” appeared first on TSWT.