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Why Peacock Talk Shows Are Combining News, Politics, Sports — and Everything Else

TCA: Mehdi Hasan, Zerlina Maxwell, Michael Smith, and Michael Holley are approaching their streaming shows by sticking to what they find interesting.

BROTHER FROM ANOTHER -- Pictured: (l-r) Michael Holley, Michael Smith -- (Photo by: Giacomo Fortunato/Peacock)

“Brother from Another” hosts Michael Holley and Michael Smith

Giacomo Fortunato/Peacock

Still in the heart of its first year as a platform, Peacock draws plenty of attention for its library of originals that audiences have come to know through the greater NBC family of networks.

As Peacock builds its growing slate of originals, its talk shows are one area where viewers are never quite sure what to expect. Speaking to the Television Critics Association virtual Winter Press Tour on Wednesday, a group of the platform’s on-air hosts said that’s exactly the way they want it.

“This show, it’s my name because it’s who I am as a person,” said Zerlina Maxwell, host of the evening talk show “Zerlina.” “I’m a political animal. I’ve worked on campaigns, I care about politics because it affects every single aspect of our lives. But the show is going to be an eclectic mix because that’s who I am as a person. I’m just as likely to send my producers, you know, a guest idea as I am a Kpop video. The full scope of who we are is what makes this interesting.”

Building up a kind of consistency while being able to adapt to whatever the day might bring is part of what Michael Smith and Michael Holley say they’re trying to do on “Brother from Another.”

“We realize that the most valuable resource anybody has is their time, and if somebody is going to spend their time with you every day, they’ve got to be able to connect with you,” Smith said. “So the only litmus test Michael and I have for the topics that we discuss is ‘What do we care about? What are we passionate about?’ Sometimes it’s sports, sometimes it’s religion. Sometimes it’s fatherhood, sometimes it’s marriage. Sometimes it’s twerking in a restaurant in Texas. Sometimes it’s the weather. It’s just on us just to be our full selves, just to be like never before. Just show up and be. And I think that’s what we need as much of as possible.”

The more elastic nature of streaming setups means that there’s more time to have conversations in the realm of politics that will be closer to something of substance than mere quick hits.

“We’re doing 54 minutes in an hour of TV, versus a 40- to 43-minute cable news hour. So it just gives you more time for longer interviews,” “The Mehdi Hasan Show” host Mehdi Hasan said. “I’ve had members of Congress saying, ‘It’s so good talking to you on your show because we can actually get into depth [with] 10, 11, 12, 13 minutes.’ I think that space to get into depth, when we’re told that TV can’t do depth, is an important part of being on Peacock.”

Smith, who came to Peacock after first rising to the national conversation while at ESPN, was asked to reflect on how the approach on “Brother from Another” goes against the ways that many in both TV and print media have tried to remove sports from a political context.

“‘Stick to sports’ is so stupid. Sports is home for the most complicated, the most in-depth, some of the most important intersections of every sector of society. Whether that’s business, whether that’s race, whether that’s gender, all of that can be found in sports way beyond the box score,” Smith said. “We’re talking about the things that are important to us. If that happens to be sports? Great. But we’ve gone entire shows without touching a sports topic. So I think ‘stick to sports’ is frankly intellectually lazy and historically dishonest.”

It makes sense, then, that a show with interwoven subject matter would have the same kind of structural freedom to follow the best of each medium they have experience with.

“We’re not trying to be a traditional show. We don’t even have a rundown. We go in, we talk about what we want to talk about,” Holley said. “It’s a TV show. It’s a podcast. It’s a radio show, all in one. So that’s just a completely different dynamic than we’re used to.”

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