A Great Guest Isn't Always a Great Host

I miss Dr. Oz, don't you? Oh, I know, he's on TV every day, hosting The Dr. Oz Show. But I miss him from his days on Oprah, when his health-related topics and advice seemed fresh and new. "It's a mistake to assume beauty is only external," he once told O. "After all, someone may be a knockout, but if she is in pain, lacks energy, is always unhappy or spiritually disconnected, her attractiveness will fade fast."

Ever since Dr. Oz got his own show, he seems to be in pain, or lacking in energy, or….maybe it's just that, despite being a great talk show guest, he's not cut out to be a talk show host.

The same might be said for Jesse Ventura, the former WWF star and Minnesota governor, who has long been the go-to guy for lively talk show entertainment. As a guest, that is. He's always had a colorful anecdote or extreme opinion to share on Larry King Live or MSNBC. And his spicy appearance on The View last spring, sparring with Elisabeth Hasselbeck, was widely circulated online for days afterward. ("You give me a water board, Dick Cheney, and one hour, and I'll have him confessing to the Sharon Tate murders," he said.) Two days after The View appearance, on Fox & Friends, Ventura made some incendiary remarks that led host Brian Kilmeade to walk off the set. It was another riveting TV moment for Ventura's clip reel.

And yet, so far in his hosting gig at Conspiracy Theory With Jesse Ventura, his delivery seems staged and scripted. His knack for spontaneous eruptions has been replaced by the rough but false talk he cultivated as a WWF star. Ventura, it seems, is better off hanging out on the guest's couch than sitting upright as a host.

You can't blame networks execs for trying to groom guys like Oz or Ventura: They showed potential as guests, which is how some of TV's moderately successful talk shows have been launched. There's a lot to be gained from finding the next Rachael Ray or Dr. Phil or even Martha Stewart. But there's also a rich history of great-guests-turned-bad-hosts, which should serve as a cautionary tale.

Megan Mullally played every viewer's favorite character (Karen) on Will  & Grace, and she rode that positive energy through countless, giddy talk show appearances. Then NBC handed her a talk show of her own, The Megan Mullally Show. It seemed like a natural fit—until her lackluster performance and dismal ratings forced its cancellation after less than five months.

Joan Rivers, queen of snappy one-liners and self-deprecating quips, wasn't able to make those killer guest-spot skills work when she hosted her own show, Fox's The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers, in 1986. It was gone two years later.

Roseanne Barr, perhaps the most successful TV loudmouth of the 90's, seemed a perfect candidate to host a talk show—especially after she nailed her hosting gig at the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards. But her brash comedy, which worked so well in small spurts (on other people's couches) fizzled when she hosted The Roseanne Show. It, too, was canceled after two years.

Apparently, when it comes to great TV hosts, there is no secret formula. Some people are just better at being guests. Unfortunately for them, the host is the one who gets a paycheck.

Plus: Talk Show Holiday Giveaways: Who Gave the Best Swag?

Are some people just better guests than hosts?

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