Celebrity talk shows — whether in the light and fluffy daytime time slots or the sarcastic and comedy-riddled nighttime slots — offer viewers some of the best of what television has to offer. Talk show hosts have had really fruitful careers and have often made a name for themselves through the iconic skits, bits, or games played on their shows.
Whether it’s The Late Late Show or The Tonight Show, so many celebrity talk shows are now prevalent on our televisions, laptops, and phones have had countless viral moments, have featured groundbreaking interviews, and have overall been a great entertainment choice.
But not all talk shows are created equal, and some hosts have had more trouble than others to keep ratings up and off-screen drama down. Some hosts have been awkward with or flat-out rude to their guests, while others have fallen victim to the ratings war. Have you ever wondered what talk shows fare better than others? What hosts are here to stay, and who is on the chopping block? Well, look no further, here are the best and worst celebrity talk shows.
Best: The Graham Norton Show is responsible for so many viral talk show moments
Some of the best celebrity talk show moments have happened on this British host’s late-night talk show. Graham Norton, the host of The Graham Norton Show, has made our best talk show list for a number of reasons. His show on the UK’s BBC One has maintained its popularity while continuing to grow its international audience too. A veteran to late-night talk shows, Graham Norton has been hosting his show since 2007, and, as such, has mastered great interview tactics and exuded charm. As noted by Vulture, the host is pretty much a hybrid of James Corden and Andy Cohen, and he comes to his interviews fully briefed on his guests and their accomplishments.
Because of his natural ease and engaged style, Graham Norton has enjoyed some of the funniest and most memorable TV moments with his guests — from the time Lin-Manuel Miranda rapped one of his iconic songs from Hamilton live to when Jason Momoa and Emilia Clarke reunited on screen. And who can forget when Benedict Cumberbatch proved while on the show that he can’t say the word “penguin?”
Worst: The View has made its own celebrity talk show hosts leave
This may come as a surprise to some readers, given how long this next show has been on the air. But if there is a daytime talk show that has consistently made viewers want to rip their hair out, cringe while watching, or flat-out change the channel, it’s The View. Hosted by the likes of Whoopi Goldberg and Meghan McCain, The View features its panelists week after week talking about some of the latest hot-button issues — and when we say talking, we really mean arguing. The View has been responsible for some of the worst on-air arguments, including a moment in July 2020, when Goldberg and McCain went head to head over the annual Women’s March. “As a conservative woman, there’s always a level of skepticism because we are never invited into circles, traditionally,” McCain said during the episode in question.
And some panelists are clearly not fans of the bickering themselves because The View saw one of its hosts Abby Huntsman leave the show in 2020 due to the “toxic culture” of the show, as noted by CNN. A person familiar with Huntsman’s decision told CNN, “Abby was sick of being berated by Meghan for perceived slights,” noting, “She ultimately decided she didn’t need this job and it wasn’t worth it.”
Best: The hosts of the fourth hour of the Today show feel like friends
NBC’s the Today show has propelled television personalities to new heights. But no segment of Today has brought more fun-loving energy than Today with Hoda & Jenna, hosted by Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager. The talk show has featured tips on healthy eating, the internet’s best steals and deals, and all things pop culture (including when Kotb met her idol, Oprah Winfrey, for the first time). And the dynamic between Kotb and Bush Hager is so good, that in January 2020, it was announced that they would be recording the show with a live studio audience. “I can’t wait for Hoda and Jenna to get to meet the best friends they don’t know they have,” said executive producer Joanne LaMarca, as noted by Variety.
And before Bush Hager was brought in to co-host the talk show, the gig belonged to Kathie Lee Gifford, who left in 2019 (via The Hollywood Reporter). She and Kotb brought the talk show into the homes of viewers every day, and they brought their wine and good energy with them too. Speaking to Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show, Gifford pointed to the chemistry that she had with her co-host, saying, “I fell in love with my Egyptian goddess.”
Worst: Years of awkward moments and controversies has Ellen on the downturn
The Ellen DeGeneres Show has been a fan favorite for a long time, but allegations of a toxic workplace culture in 2020 resulted in a downward spiral for the series. As noted by Variety, the Season 18 premiere week of Ellen in October 2020 only saw about 1.7 million viewers per episode, a 37 percent decrease from the celebrity talk show’s same week in 2019. Even though host Ellen DeGeneres publicly spoke about the workplace misconduct allegations during the premiere episode, addressing the reports, rumors, and realities behind the camera, the fallout was severe.
Some even took to social media and YouTube to share their thoughts on the once-beloved host. “She is a comedian and this is a joke of an apology,” one YouTube user commented on DeGeneres’ Season 18 monologue video. “She answered absolutely none of the allegations. This is a non-apology,” wrote another. The video itself is a good indication of viewers’ feelings: As of this writing, it has 38,000 likes and 88,000 dislikes, making it clear that Ellen has lost a piece of its magic. Time will tell if the show, and the host, will recover.
Best: Seth Meyers' celebrity talk show is sometimes better than news broadcasts
Late-night celebrity talk shows have become, in some cases, just as informative as the news, and Late Night with Seth Meyers is no exception. His political recap segment, entitled “A Closer Look,” gained traction in the years of the Trump presidency due in part to the relevant information shared by the host, as well as the jovial tone attached to the delivery. Some segments of “A Closer Look” are Seth Meyers’ most viewed videos on YouTube — one video about socialism, for example, has 6.9 million views, while a segment on the Ukraine scandal has 6.4 million views. And many viewers have pointed to the well-delivered headlines and the comedic tone that Meyers brings to the table.
“Well done, Seth Meyers. You nailed it,” wrote one YouTube user about the Ukraine segment. “Seth is slowly becoming my favorite late night host,” wrote another. NBC clearly took note of the praise because Seth Meyers turned “A Closer Look” into an election special that aired in early October 2020, Closer Work Thursday. As noted by Deadline, the segment “dissect(ed) the events of the day, up-to-the-minute breaking news and other important facts” that voters needed to know. Good work, Seth Meyers!
Worst: Despite his funny gags, Jimmy Fallon's celebrity talk show has seen plummeting numbers
Jimmy Fallon has been gracing our screens for a long time — from his days on Saturday Night Live to The Tonight Show, Fallon has a reputation of humor and lightheartedness. But The Tonight Show has made it on our list of worst talk shows due to the show’s ratings. As noted by The Hollywood Reporter, The Tonight Show was watched by more than 11 million people in 2014. In 2019, Fallon’s late-night show was barely hitting the 2 million mark, and Fallon found himself in third place in the late-night talk show host run-off against Jimmy Kimmel, who placed second, and Stephen Colbert, who placed first.
Some speculated that Jimmy Fallon’s rejection of getting political on his show was partially to blame for the falling ratings, as his late-night opponents have been known to take a jab at politicians. Bill Carter, a former writer for The New York Times, told The Hollywood Reporter that Fallon faced proposed changes from his producers in light of the ratings. “As his producers got conscious of what other shows were doing, they tried to reshape him,” Carter said. “The bottom line is, let Jimmy be Jimmy.”
Best: Samantha Bee's talk show has been a breakout success
If most late-night satirical talk shows have one thing in common, it’s the gender of the host — male. So when Daily Show correspondent Samantha Bee broke into late night with her show Full Frontal with Samantha Bee in 2016, she not only brought political commentary and a great talk show, but she became the first female late-night satire show host, as noted by The Cut. “There are plenty of people who won’t tune in because a woman’s voice bothers their eardrums,” Samantha Bee told The Cut, adding, “I guess I just don’t really care about those people.”
The first season of Full Frontal was a smash hit, and received a 100 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It was met with a chorus of praises from critics and solidified Bee’s place in late-night history. By speaking about issues ranging from abortion rights to Guantanamo Bay, the female host really stood out among the crowd. “Full Frontal’s first episode was such a welcome jolt of energy that you might wish the show was airing every day,” wrote The Atlantic. We love to see it.
Worst: This celebrity talk show keeps changing hosts
We admit that drama is addictive, but TV host Kelly Ripa has seen her share of it. Ripa, the co-host of Live with Kelly and Ryan, has been in the public eye for some time. She hosted her talk show with Regis Philbin, a record-breaking television host, from 2001 to 2011, acting as his sidekick. Once Philbin left, the co-host slot was filled by former football player Michael Strahan. He was Kelly’s on-screen partner until 2016, when he left the show for Good Morning America in a cloud of drama, leading many to speculate that the two did not work well together.
After his departure, Strahan told The New York Times that “certain things that were going on behind the scenes” eventually bubbled up to the surface. “I remained the same person I was from Day 1. One thing I will not do is alter my attitude for somebody else’s,” he said. Strahan noted, “People who should have handled it better have all apologized, but a lot of the damage had already been done.”
Kelly Ripa was later paired with Ryan Seacrest for the show we now as Live with Kelly and Ryan. Hopefully things stay peachy between the hosts.
Best: The Late Late Show has had some standout talk show sketches
Talk show moments go viral due to hilarious skits, recurring bits, and stand-out guests. The best moments of The Late Late Show hosted by James Corden have been no exception. The talk show made it on our best list in part due to Corden’s good singing while hosting “Carpool Karaoke” and his enthusiasm when jamming out with stars. He has had the likes of Paul McCartney, Adele, and Bruno Mars join him in the car to belt out their biggest hits, and he has made us all jealous in the process.
“James literally has the best job in the world!” one YouTube user commented under a video of Billie Eilish’s “Carpool Karaoke” feature. “James is that popular kid at school who can be best friends with anyone,” wrote another.
Another great segment on Corden’s show that has boosted him above other late-night talk shows is his segment entitled “Late Late Live Tinder,” where he brings someone out on stage and has them swipe left or right on potential suitors. The segments are as awkward as they are enduring, and Corden is an excellent host. All in all, we can count on him for a good laugh.
Worst: Wendy Williams' talk show has had so many awkward moments
A leading lady talk show host is a big deal, but The Wendy Williams Show has made it on the worst side of this list due to her awkward interviews, mishaps, and rudeness. For example, in 2018, Williams addressed the feud between Nicki Minaj and Cardi B, and she suggested that they go on tour together and feature other headliners, including Ms. Melodie. Williams was explaining her idea when a producer let her know on air that Ms. Melodie had actually passed away (she died in 2012). Shrugging off the incident, the host said, “She passed away? Aw. Alright,” and she moved on, despite the awkward giggles let out by the audience.
But of all the awkward interviews and tense exchanges that have been caught on camera during Williams’ show — this one might take the cake. While interviewing Draya Michele from Basketball Wives LA in 2011, Williams blatantly asked her guest how many basketball stars she had “been with” and said that her guest had “gotten around.” People in the comments definitely picked up on the tough exchange, saying that Draya “handled that well.” But yikes…
Best: John Oliver's talk show is worth the subscription to HBO
If there is one reason to get HBO, it’s talk show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Its British host ushers in a hot issue week after week, and delivers expert analysis with unmatched humor. Fans and critics have clearly taken note of how excellent the show is — Last Week Tonight has received a number of accolades during its time on HBO, including 20 Primetime Emmy Awards, as of this writing.
John Oliver has noted that he has “complete creative freedom” as host and, as such, has gone after big companies, politicians, and issues. As such, he has landed himself in some hot water, but has brought attention to some of the biggest issues facing our world.
In 2018, Oliver was sued by coal executive Robert Murray after the host called him “a geriatric Dr. Evil.” A lawsuit was filed in West Virginia, accusing John Oliver of “attempting to assassinate Murray’s character and reputation,” as noted by The Washington Post. But the judge quickly dismissed the case, and the host went right back to his ways. And we are so happy he did.
Worst: Despite its long time on TV, Dr. Phil just isn't as popular as it once was
The coronavirus pandemic put a lot of people on edge. But daytime’s once-favorite TV doc Dr. Phil McGraw faced backlash when downplaying the virus and suffered in popularity because of it. While appearing on Fox News, the Dr. Phil host dramatically underestimated the severity of the virus, and pointed to the economy as the true sufferer. “The economy is crashing around us and they’re doing that because people are dying because of coronavirus,” he said. He then said that people die in car accidents, from cigarettes, and by drowning, “but we don’t shut the country down for that.”
People quickly took to social media to express their outrage over McGraw’s thoughts, and they did not hold back, as noted by Entertainment Weekly. Television writer Mike Druker tweeted, “Fun Fact: Dr. Phil is not a medical doctor. He has a PhD in clinical psychology, but he currently has no license to practice psychology in any state. So not only is he not qualified to give medical advice, he technically isn’t qualified to give it in his own profession.” Looks like the good ol’ doctor and presumably his talk show aren’t feeling the love like they used to.
Best: After a rocky start and big shoes to fill, Trevor Noah's Daily Show found his footing
The talk show world was devastated when host Jon Stewart announced he was leaving The Daily Show. He left big shoes to fill, and it took new host Trevor Noah a minute to find his footing. But his perspective on the issues has made him a necessary voice in late night, and he has brilliantly narrated social and political problems unlike any other. His commentary on 2020 vice-presidential pick Kamala Harris was as poignant as it was accurate, and Vulture‘s Chris Murphy wrote about Noah’s thoughts perfectly. “This is, perhaps, a great example of why late night needs more diversity,” Murphy wrote, “… so we get more nuanced looks at politicians and less laugh tracks in an election year.”
Trevor Noah has stayed in the spotlight since taking over from Stewart. He was named one of Time’s 100 most influential people in 2018, and he renewed his contract with The Daily Show in 2017, so that he will be on the air until at least 2022. “It’s really exciting to renew this contract for either five more years or until Kim Jong-un annihilates us all,” the host joked, as noted by The New York Times. “Whichever one comes first.”
Worst: The Dr. Oz Show just doesn't hold up to fact-checking
It seems that on-air doctors have weighed in on a lot of topics, and Dr. Mehmet Oz is no exception. But unlike doctors interviewed on the news or given a platform due to their high rank in the medical community (think Dr. Anthony Fauci), Dr. Oz has been misleading his viewers of The Dr. Oz Show since 2014.
A 2014 study published in the British Medical Journal showed that “medical research either didn’t substantiate — or flat out contradicted — more than half of Oz’s recommendations,” as described by The Washington Post. “Recommendations made on medical talk shows often lack adequate information on specific benefits or the magnitude of the effects of these benefits,” the study read, noting that viewers “should be skeptical about recommendations made on medical talk shows.”
Dr. Oz found himself back in the spotlight in 2020, when he said he supported reopening schools, despite the health dangers posed by the coronavirus. He said while appearing on Fox News that opening schools was “an appetizing opportunity” and should be considered, as noted by The New York Times. He later said that he “misspoke” during the interview. If one thing is for sure, it’s to get your medical advice in an actual doctor’s office, not from the television.
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