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Hoping for a Big Win, Daytime Turns to 'Harry'

NBCUniversal wants us to remember one thing: America’s women are ready to show the love to multitalented performer Harry Connick Jr. How much so? For a promo, Connick posed a question to an audience member: “If you could ask me any question, what would it be?” Her answer, without skipping a beat: “Could I marry you?”

Connick told one woman in the audience during a recent taping that he was getting lost in her eyes, prompting another to ask him if he could also get lost in hers. The star’s ability to inspire that kind of devotion from women who are also watching from their living rooms will be key to the success of his new show, Harry, premiering in national syndication on Sept. 12.

The show, produced by NBCUniversal, is shooting three days per week, twice a day, in front of a live studio audience composed mostly of these adoring women at the CBS Broadcast Center on West 57 St. in New York.

Connick’s new daytime home is an almost all-white set, complete with white comfy chairs and a white grand piano. Behind him are wall-sized letters spelling out H-A-R-RY that are in fact screens filled with different backgrounds. For the standard set, a New York City backdrop appears in the letters but the screens can be changed as needed.

Stage right sits Connick’s band, composed of musicians who have been with him for years. Like The Roots on NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Connick’s band operates like another host of the show, with various members leading the audience in clapping, dancing and foot-stomping before the action even gets going. And one of them does a mean Rodney Dangerfield impression, complete with crooked tie and jokes.

That Harry has a late-night vibe is no accident. The show’s executive producers, Justin and Eric Stangel, come to Harry after 17 years executive producing Late Show With David Letterman. The goal of Harry is to provide daytime with a new format, one that feels more lively and less talky than most of the daypart’s standard fare. Connick is at his best when he’s interacting with real people, so he spends a lot of time in the audience and they don’t seem to mind that a bit.

While Harry isn’t about booking celebrities who are making the rounds to promote their next project, there is, of course, some of that. Harry grabbed a big guest right out of the gate, with Oscar-winner Sandra Bullock, star of movies including The Blind Side, Gravity, Heat and Hope Floats (in which she costarred with the host), joining Connick on day one.

“It was such an honor to have my good friend Sandy as my first guest, it was incredible to reminisce about old times,” Connick said. “I’m having such a great time already and I can’t wait for y’all to see it!” Other celebrities booked for Harry’s first week include Oscar-winner Renée Zellweger, whose latest movie, Bridget Jones’ Baby, premieres on Sept. 16; five-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who stars in Arrival, now making the film-festival rounds; and Terrence Howard, star of Fox’s megahit Empire. Other stars will make cameo appearances that first week, including Russell Crowe, Kristen Bell, Zooey Deschanel, Anthony Anderson, John Stamos and Taraji P. Henson.

In week 2, Connick will pay a visit to the set of Empire, a nod to the fact that Harry is airing on the Fox-owned television stations in markets including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. The top brass at Fox have been very supportive, running Harry promos in primetime and sending the show some of its top talent, such as Howard and Henson.

Connick also has several regular segments that feature everyday heroes. In “Harry’s Leading Ladies,” the show shines a spotlight on women who are making a difference in their communities, while “I Got This” finds Connick surprising someone by taking over her duties for the day while sending her off for a much-needed break.

“This show is the party we thought it would be. Guest bookings are great, and the audiences have been thrilled with Harry’s energy, wit, charm and music,” said Ed Swindler, president of NBCUniversal Domestic TV Distribution and Broadcast Operations. “Harry is a true entertainer and we are excited for viewers to see the show.”