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‘The Talk’ EP Rob Crabbe On Transitioning From Late Night And How He’s Changing The CBS Talker: “I Just Want It To Be A Pure Entertainment Show”

It may have looked like a big transition for Rob Crabbe — jumping from late night where he ran The Late Late Show with James Corden for eight years to executive producing his first daytime show, The Talk — but the veteran showrunner was actually more anxious about the live aspect of his new gig at CBS.

“When we were making Corden, we thought that show could work any time of the day, and so we were making it for any type of audience and we wanted people to be able to enjoy it at lunch on their computer or watch it on linear television at night,” says Crabbe, who began his new gig in the fall of 2023. “But in late night, you shoot a show at 5 p.m. and you have it on the air about three and a half hours later. With daytime, you get fired out of a cannon at 11 a.m. and your feet don’t touch the ground until noon.”

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But in his short time assuming control of the show, Crabbe has made an impact — starting with the simple but much-needed decision to move the chairs closer together on set, extending the first act of the show and instilling more intimate interview segments that feature only two or three hosts chatting with the celebrities.

He also called for more location pieces, like having Amanda Kloots go sky diving indoors with JoJo Siwa, sending Natalie Morales off to go horseback riding, and allowing Sheryl Underwood to judge for the day on Hot Bench. Next up: The Talk will do remote pieces from Las Vegas as a walk-up to CBS’s February 11 telecast of the Super Bowl.

“We might get Natalie Morales to sky jump off the Stratosphere,” jokes Crabbe (we hope).

So far, the audience likes what it is seeing in season 14: For the week ending January 12, The Talk lured 1.408 million viewers, the program’s best delivery this season. It is the show’s largest weekly audience since the week ending May 12.

The Talk also posted monthly viewership gains since returning in October and was the No. 3 daytime talk show in Q4 2023 – trailing only ABC’s The View and Live with Kelly and Mark.

“Sometime you need a different viewpoint, different eyes, a different experience. That’s what Rob brings to us,” says Sheryl Underwood, the longest sitting member of The Talk panel (she joined in season 2). “He doesn’t make you feel bad about things. He will give you gentle direction. And I’ve never been around a man who does that. No shade on anybody who has been in this before. I’m just saying this is refreshing, especially after 14 seasons.”

Here, Crabbe talks about his reaction when he was first offered the job, the changes he’s made on the daytime show, and what he misses about late night.

DEADLINE When CBS approached you about this job, what was your reaction?

ROB CRABBE They sort of surprised me with it. Pretty immediately it was like, that’s a pretty cool opportunity. I hadn’t had an opportunity to do daytime before. I’ve always worked with one host. So the idea of working with five hosts was interesting. I also hadn’t done live in a while. I did some live in New York, but it had been a long time and I thought it was just going to be a new experience. If anything, I sort of zoomed out on myself from a satellite image. It was like, oh, let’s see what happens to this guy when they throw him into daytime with five hosts in a live show.

DEADLINE Did the strike buy you some time to plan for The Talk?

CRABBE We ended Corden on April 27. That was a date that we had chosen long before anybody was talking about a strike. That happened to be the Thursday before the strike started on Monday. And so I had about a year and a half where I knew I was going to be off work come May 1, 2023. I was already planning to not be doing anything for a little while. I thought I’d have a little time off that summer, so I didn’t enjoy the strike. I didn’t want to be on strike. I’m happy that we did it and I’m happy for the results of it, but I think it was hard for the industry and everybody that works in it. So it was time that I anticipated off, but for different reasons. [After he got the job at The Talk] there wasn’t very much that I could do. I could familiarize myself with the show, but I couldn’t go on the lot. I couldn’t see the stage. I couldn’t do anything particularly functional. So I think it was more about getting a feel for the show, sort of watching episodes, seeing strengths and weaknesses and things like that.

Akbar Gbajabiamila, Amanda Kloots, Sheryl Underwood, EP Rob Crabbe, Jerry O’Connell and Natalie Morales. Photo: Bonnie Osborne/CBS
Akbar Gbajabiamila, Amanda Kloots, Sheryl Underwood, EP Rob Crabbe, Jerry O’Connell and Natalie Morales. Photo: Bonnie Osborne/CBS

DEADLINE Did you watch a lot of old episodes?

CRABBE I watched maybe a dozen of them or so, but I also didn’t want to be encyclopedic about the show because I thought it’d be easier to change things if I wasn’t married to anything.

DEADLINE We obviously saw The Drew Barrymore Show face a world of hurt by coming back too early. Did you struggle over timing after the show’s debut this season?

CRABBE Certainly. I mean, I definitely had a crew to worry about. I definitely wanted people to be able to work. It was such a different dynamic this time because when it happened in 2008 with late night shows, everybody sort of came back at one point and said, ‘we have to bring our crews back to work.’ It all sort of happened at once. This was not the dynamic here, and so it was evident that nobody should be coming back early. It weighs on you because you know there are 150 other people who work on a show, particularly a daytime show where you’re not as reliant on a writing staff and there’s a lot less writers. Also our hosts are on a different contract than SAG-AFTRA. They’re on the Network Code, so they weren’t affected by the strike other than not wanting to cross any lines. So I think that it certainly weighed on me, but I think that we made the best possible decision with the information we had and coming back right after the strike ended certainly felt a lot better.

DEADLINE Was there an immediate change that you made to the show?

CRABBE One of the things I wanted to do immediately was change the setup a little bit. I wanted to bring the hosts a little bit closer together. There’s a nice physicality when they can actually tap each other, lean into each, hit each other with pillows, stuff like that. I also wanted to increase the pace of the show. I thought that it would be better if they could get through a lot more topics at the top of the show. I really extended the first act of the show so they have time for that. We can let it breathe. We became a little less reliant on hitting particular lengths of time for those segments. And loosening up the topics, they can have a better time with it, and not scripting it very much let the audience experience them live. There’s a freeness they have now that the audience feels. We’ve been able to lean into that and they’re having a lot more fun, I think. And also topics wise, I just want it to be a pure entertainment show. That’s what I’ve always done. We’re in the entertainment division.

DEADLINE What about the Presidential election? As it gets closer, will they begin talking about it?

CRABBE I think other people do that very well. There are serious things we’ll still talk about, unfortunately. We’ll always have to address those things. But politics wise, I think our audience sees this show as a break in their day. I think this is an hour you can spend with these five hosts and not worry about elections.

DEADLINE When you told the hosts you weren’t going to script them as much, how did they react?

CRABBE Well, it took a minute. Sheryl’s been doing the show for years. The others are a little bit newer. And so when you change anything, I think it takes a minute for people to come around to it. Some of them embraced it immediately. Some people had a hard time not having words to go off of, but for the most part, it was a very short transition period. They realized it was a lot more fun for them just to get in and not to be married to anything. What I had seen in some of the shows, you could see the patience in their faces when they’re waiting for their turn to talk. I wanted it to be a little bit more of a free for all. I wanted them to know that they could just jump in.

DEADLINE Why change the way they do interviews?

CRABBE Part of that is that same patience you saw. When there is limited time for these interviews, they each have time for one question and they hold their card and wait for each of their questions. And now by only using two or three hosts in an interview, you can make them much more intimate, which I think is better for the hosts and much better for the guests. They can get to more stuff. You can have follow-up questions and go down rabbit holes and chase different threads.

DEADLINE You had Taraji P. Henson last week, who’s become a total newsmaker recently. Has there been a change in the level of talent you’ve been booking?

CRABBE [Supervising Producer] Diana Miller came over from The Late Late Show. Her department is terrific. We’re striving to have the best guests in studio. We’ve tried to change the experience to make it as comfortable for everybody as possible, and it doesn’t hurt that this is the most eyeballs you can get in Los Angeles on a television show. With Taraji, it was beautiful. She was in tears. There’s a warmth here that I think that she felt immediately. The audience is raucous here. You wouldn’t think it, but they’re so invested in the show.

DEADLINE How are you feeling about the state of daytime?

CRABBE I think it’s strong. I’m new to it, so I’m kind of learning it as I go. But there’s so much out there in daytime. I think that there’s a lot to suit a lot of different audiences. There are a lot more people working from home now. And I’m saying that in the more global sense of daytime, not in the last three years when everybody was home for the pandemic. Remote work has become a thing. And so when I look at this show and the hosts of the show, their commonality is co-workers. What I want to bring to it, and I have to use a cliche because no one’s ever come up with a better word for it, is watercooler talk. It’s the things that you’re buzzing about. So while we have our core audience that’s been with the show for a long time, I think there’s a lot of room for people who need to share their lunch break with some co-workers that might be remote workers. We can hit on the buzzy things. That’s the thing that we do very well.

DEADLINE Late night is changing in so many ways. What do you think is going to happen to your old genre and more importantly, do you miss it?

CRABBE I loved late night. I did it for a really long time. I did a Last call with Carson Daly. I did The Late Show with Craig Kilborn in Los Angeles before I even moved to New York. I had all those years on Corden and I did Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and then The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon. That’ll always be in my heart. I haven’t had time to miss it. I think that late night is evolving. I do think it will always be necessary and there’ll always be a place for it in television. I think at some point someone’s going to crack it for streaming, and that’s going to open a lot of doors when that happens. People need it. I think that having that level of political humor at nighttime, sort of puts the day in perspective. It takes its hits here and there, but I think it will get stronger.

The Talk airs weekdays on CBS and streams on Paramount+ and Pluto TV.

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