Chat will flow if the guestlist fits

All chat shows are not alike. From the avuncular calm of Parkinson to the spontaneous wit of Frank Skinner and Jonathan Ross, PROs have much to consider to find the right slot for their celebs, says Sarah Robertson

Michael Parkinson's cosy chats contrast starkly with the risky repartee of Frank Skinner and Jonathan Ross's . And it is easy to see what the 70-year-old avuncular Yorkshireman meant by his recent labelling of his younger rivals as 'smart arses'. Given the differences in presenting style, their respective shows suit guests' publicity agendas differently.

Parkinson, who moved from BBC1 to ITV1 last year, targets the over-35s. 'He's a safer pair of hands compared with his younger, edgier counterparts, and is good if you have a nervous celebrity,' says Taylor Herring PR managing director James Herring.

Parkinson is also widely seen as the best place to be if you are trying to make a media noise about your client, with interviews sometimes generating further coverage on radio and other TV shows.

But music mogul Jonathan Shalit, MD of Shalit Global, says Parkinson is a wolf in sheep's clothing. He says: 'The men get a pat on the back but the women get a harder time. He talks about their age, what they are doing with their lives, and so on.'

Different tastes
Each show features musicians as well as interviewees, and Parkinson can break fresh acts, such as Jamie Cullum, says Herring.

Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, however, is generally more suited to popular Radio 1 acts.

The edgy and unpredictable tone of Ross's show reflects the comedian's eccentric personality. But his knowledge and contacts in the film industry, helped by being the presenter of Film 2005, attract film stars, says Freud Communications media director Patrick Keegan.

He adds: 'Some guests have a history with a presenter. Ross, in particular, never has anyone on that he doesn't like.'

A further consideration is the time of the year, with autumn a busy season. 'This time of year is a nightmare. Everyone has a new DVD, film or TV show,' laughs Herring.

Ultimately, says Shalit, getting on the shows is about persuading the bookers that your client is already a major entertainer – or, even tougher, the next big thing.

Parkinson
Channel ITV1
Audience Ten million
Producer  Granada TV
Contact Steven Lappin 020 7620 1620
What do you look for when picking your guests?
What we look for is a link between our guests, a crossover of some kind, in view of the fact that they have the chance to chat between themselves at the end of the show.

Are there certain times of the year when it is easier to get on than others?
Typically autumn is very busy and very competitive. There are lots of autobiographies and greatest hits albums around that people want to promote. However, spring is getting busier. Last spring we featured John Travolta and Will Smith.

Is it easier to get onto the show if you have been on before?
Some guests, such as Stephen Fry, have been on a few times but generally we like to keep things fresh and keep at least a year between visits.

Who makes up your audience?
We won't reveal the breakdown, but we have the broadest demographic of all the chat shows.

Friday Night with Jonathan Ross
Channel BBC1
Audience Five million
Producer Open Mike Productions
Contact Lizzie Anders 020 7434 4004
What type of guests are you looking for?
Potentially anyone, as long as they have a high enough profile. The most important thing for us to consider is the mix of guests. If we were offered John Travolta, Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt for the same show we would only take one of them because it is so important we get the mix right. Jonathan also needs people who are willing to deal with his humour.

Some people are nervous at appearing on the show.
Yes, but everyone goes away having enjoyed it. Jonathan is a benevolent host.

Are you particularly popular with actors?
There is a view that he knows his films, so yes he is approached a lot.

What type of musicians do you invite to the show?
Jonathan's musical taste is similar to his radio show – slightly cutting-edge, alternative rock and rap.

The Frank Skinner Show
Channel ITV 1 and ITV2
Audience Four million
Producer Avalon Television 
Contact Emma McDonald 020 7598 8000

How well do PROs target the show?
Many do not understand the process of making a TV show and the cold calls I get on a daily basis generally are not well researched.

Some people don't even get the channel right. However, there is a small community of talent managers who know what they're doing.

What advice would you give to new or aspiring talent managers?
Get to know as many celebrity bookers as possible.

What sort of guests do you favour?
We are keen on homegrown talent and we like people in the tabloids, people who are newsworthy and also big Hollywood names. It is a tabloid-style show and we have a lot of young, attractive girls but it is not just for a fantasy football audience. We are quite reactive to the news and approach about 50 per cent of our guests with the other 50 per cent approaching us.

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