Donny Deutsch isn’t Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David or Billy Crystal, but he has a sense of what it’s like to be them –- or a version of them.
Those performers have played variations of themselves in sitcoms, and now, rather brash advertising guru and former CNBC “The Big Idea” host Deutsch is doing the same. He stars as himself (sort of) as the USA Network series “Donny!” premieres Tuesday (Nov. 10), making him the single-dad host of a weekday talk show … and as soon as the cameras are off, he shows himself less than confident in many areas he has purported to be a know-it-all about.
“I’ve been on every [talk] show you can,” Deutsch tells Zap2it, “whether it was filling in for Piers Morgan [on CNN] or the ‘Today’ show, and so many of these TV personalities are quite different on-air than they are off the air. And the more I met them, it kind of became an impetus that this would be a funny thing to do and kind of use that as a platform.”
Though the series centers around Deutsch, there’s also a big female presence: Emily Tarver portrays his executive producer, Meera Rohit Kumbhani (“Weird Loners”) appears as an assistant, and Fiona Robert portrays his teenage daughter. “This is true to my real life,” Deutsch maintains, “in that I come from the Bill Clinton school of, ‘Just surround yourself with brilliant women.’ And I actually think women are superior to men. I’ve written that in one of my books.
“If you watch a Saturday morning TV commercial for a little girl’s game or toy, at the end, girls are always collaborating. They are giggling at the end of a commercial. At the end of the boys’ commercial, a boy goes, ‘I won.’ You know, it’s a zero-sum game … where, to me, women are brilliant and smart and powerful without all of the bulls***. I basically am the butt of the joke in this show, and the women kind of rule. And that’s the way I kind of see it in real life, also.”
The talk-show milieu of “Donny!” is built for guest appearances, and Regis Philbin, Christie Brinkley, “Today’s” Hoda Kotb and MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” team of Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski are among those featured -– “just some really interesting New York characters,” Deutsch notes, “and all playing themselves. There’s a lot of surprises that will pop up in there, so it’s kind of a fun thing. And the other theme about the show that’s interesting, it’s set against a backdrop of a very high-end New York lifestyle, but it’s just everyday problems.”
For anyone not already familiar with him, Deutsch believes “Donny!” gets that job done quickly and effectively. “I’ve been very lucky,” he reflects. “I’ve had a very fun, exciting life and do all these TV things and have had success in advertising. And you sometimes can get put in a certain light, whereas in reality, I am a complete idiot, and I’m struggling every day. And my kids are doing stuff that you can get very caught up in.
“That’s why I kind of laugh at my own life sometimes, watching people react to me if they’ve seen me on TV or they know I’ve been a successful business guy. Inside, I know that I’m just kind of an idiot, and I’ve never lost sight of that. Actually, the people I respect most, some really successful people, are the people that have … I don’t want to call it a sense of fraudulence, but I know there’s a lot of luck involved. And I don’t take any of it for granted.”