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Utah talk-show rivals: a study in contrast

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The fact that not one, but two new nationally syndicated talk shows will be hosted by native Utahns this fall is somewhat startling, given the relatively small population of the state.

Of course, chances are that "Donny & Marie" and "The Roseanne Show" won't exactly be the same sort of program that appeals to the same sort of audience. Nonetheless, even some of the people involved are surprised about the Utah connection."Isn't that amazing?" said Donny Osmond. "Utah rules, baby!"

And he foresees the day when the two Utah connections might connect on the air.

"Absolutely," Osmond said. "I would love to talk with her. I'd love to have her on our show and go and do her show."

Donny, Marie and Roseanne were among those promoting upcoming programs as the annual Television Critics Association summer press tour kicked off here this week. And, while all of them made their names in prime-time television, they're all headed for daytime come mid-September.

But while both "Donny & Marie" and "Roseanne" will be doing daytime talk shows, their presentations were a study in contrasts.

The Osmonds were loose and enthusiastic - if a bit overeager to please. They showed critics clips from the four practice shows they taped earlier this year and talked at some length about what they're planning for their show - a mix of entertainment, celebrity interviews and musical performances.

"Marie and I are going to have a blast doing this show," Donny said.

If anything, the Osmonds were trying a tad too hard to force their chemistry, overplaying the bickering siblings a bit. But at least they were trying, coming across as open and congenial.

"We have a comfortable relationship," Marie said. "Maybe more so than a married couple of two (unrelated) co-hosts. And it's so fun."

Roseanne, on the other hand, was curiously guarded. The woman who used to tell pretty much everyone pretty much everything about her life was circumspect and bordering on belligerent about the simplest questions.

"OK, so, what are you asking me here? What do you want to know?" she said several times in response to rather straightforward questions about what she was planning for her show. Or something like, "Oh, I don't know. What do you want to know?"

Of course, that might be explained by the fact that Roseanne has seen her rather tumultuous life played out in the tabloids for the past decade. (And the fact that she doesn't distinguish between TV critics who work for mainline newspapers and the tabloid press.)

"I think I'm over that," she said of her former frankness. "That's kind of one of the mistakes that I made."

But in addition, both Roseanne and her producers were downright vague and evasive as to what they have in the works. They offered no glimpses from the practice shows they've taped - leaving open the question of whether anyone involved with "The Roseanne Show" really knows where they're headed, even some 14 months after the project was announced.

"Any ideas we have right now are very fluid and I think after we get on the air they'll continue to be fluid," Roseanne said.

Not exactly a statement to inspire confidence by the stations that ponied up some big bucks to purchase rights to the show.

(In Utah, "The Roseanne Show" will be seen on KUTV-Ch. 2, part of a deal that put the program on CBS-owned stations across the country. "Donny & Marie" will be seen on KSTU-Ch. 13, part of a deal involving a handful of Fox-owned stations.)

The difference in style between the Osmonds and Roseanne was particularly evident after their press conferences ended.

Donny and Marie patiently answered follow-up questions from crowds of critics until the publicists finally dragged them off to other appointments.

Roseanne, on the other hand, rushed away as quickly as possible. One of her publicists told anxious critics they were "trying to avoid" any follow-up questions.

Does any of this mean anything? Perhaps not. But early indications are that Donny and Marie know where they're going and what they're doing, and they don't mind talking about it.

Roseanne, on the other hand, apparently isn't quite so sure.

- NOT A POSSIBILITY: Some Utahns have rather naively asked whether the new "Donny & Marie" would be taped in the Beehive State. It will not, of course - the show will be situated in Los An-ge-les.

"It never really was an option to do it up there," Donny said, "because when you're doing a daily show and it's guest-driven, you need to be where the guests are."

Well, duh!

- DONNY AND HOWARD: Donny insists he's no longer trying to change his image, but he did appear on radio shock jock Howard Stern's raunchy show a few months ago. And he's not making any excuses for doing so.

"I had a really good time . . . I didn't try to one-up him," Donny said. "Would I do it again? I probably would."

"If I were there," Marie interjected.

"No, I wouldn't let you be there," Donny replied.

"What would Howard have to say to me?" Marie asked.

"You don't want to know," her brother replied.