Conventional Hollywood wisdom would say “you have to stay in Hollywood to make big things happen.” For African-Americans, that model has not proven wise. Yes, Denzel and Will Smith have hit the Hollywood jackpot by playing by those rules; but Tyler Perry has hit even bigger by breaking them. And, now, Steve Harvey appears next in line.
By mingling a formula that is mostly Perry with a little bit of Oprah, Harvey has ascended to the entertainment mountaintop with a style that may also prove uniquely his own. Building off of his radio success with The Steve Harvey Morning Show, which is currently the country’s top-rated nationally syndicated morning show, according to the trade, Broadcasting & Cable, Harvey took a leap into publishing, producing two best-selling books, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man and Straight Talk, No Chaser: How to Find, Keep, and Understand a Man.
The film version of the former will hit theaters in early 2012, becoming the even rarer Hollywood-endorsed film with a virtually all-black cast.
Bolstered by his latest success hosting Family Feud, where the ratings have grown 55 percent since he took over, it was just announced that Harvey is now in line for his own syndicated talk show tailored to his brand of comedy and unique perspective on relationships for 2012.
Harvey is no stranger to television, having a handful of series under his belt, including the well-loved The Steve Harvey Show, which aired from 1996 until 2002 and is currently seen in syndication on TBS. Although, when he popped up on Good Morning America in 2009, it was very awkward. Yet, it was clear that someone had their eye on Harvey. So, it was just a matter of time before a truly big move emerged.
With Oprah giving up the network broadcast arena in favor of cable for OWN, a huge gap has been left in daytime television. If you’re already at the craps table, can you not blame Harvey for going for the big score?
“This is one of my unconquered ventures. It’s something I always wanted to give a shot at,” Harvey told Broadcasting & Cable. “I always felt that it would fit into my forte. I’ve gained a lot of experiences over the years sitting on a lot of talk shows. My radio show has gone on at the national level for about seven years. With all of that experience and the success of the book and Family Feud, I think now is the right time.”
Adapting Oprah’s successful script to his more masculine persona, Harvey added, “I think it’s an interesting angle to have a guy in daytime television who’s actually built his platform around not only being funny but also being empowering and insightful for women.”
What’s most surprising, however, is Harvey’s less than stellar record in his own life. While he has never pretended to be a saint, a point he frequently drives home when he hosts BET’s long-running Celebration of Gospel, it is curious that so many black women continue to rally around him.
Earlier this year, his ex-wife from his second marriage, Mary Harvey, took to YouTube to expose him in ghetto-fabulous form, revealing how she had truly been a ride-or-die chick for Harvey during his tough rise to stardom and he left her anyway. Although many of her accusations, such as her claim that Harvey turned their son against her and Harvey left her penniless, were successfully challenged as untrue, her allegations of Harvey’s numerous infidelities were not. The only loud objection came from Harvey’s current wife, Marjorie, when Mary accused her of being Harvey’s mistress before Mary’s divorce from him in 2005.
Instead of turning away from that philandering past, Harvey claims to use his background for good, hipping clueless black women in particular against the games black men play. That’s the perspective he’s claimed during his radio show’s popular segment, Strawberry Letter, where readers send Harvey’s sidekick Shirley Strawberry a letter usually of relationship distress.
Given the cyber sideyes black women have given and continue to give Alicia Keys and Fantasia in their respective relationships with men who were not legally unattached at the initiation of them, it’s curious that Harvey gets a pass. In many ways, he’s become the “Teflon Harvey,” where nothing sticks.
Essence.com blogger S. Tia Brown even came to his defense with her post “Sound-Off: A Case for Steve Harvey”. “I’m so tired of I’m so tired of hearing black people — especially the men — hate on Steve Harvey,” she began that post.
What some people call “hate,” others call legitimate concern and rightful criticism. Regardless of which side of the Steve Harvey fence you stand, one thing is undeniable: the man has worked hard.
From stand-up comic to a longtime hosting gig for It’s Showtime at the Apollo, where he mingled his sitcoms into his load, and then on to radio while being on the road with The Kings of Comedy, which became, arguably, his most successful film, and juggling his sitcom The Steve Harvey Show. Harvey clearly hasn’t wasted any opportunity that has come his way.
Who knows how he will fare in daytime television with his own comedic take on love and relationships? If he fails, he will be in great company. Conquering daytime is so hard. That’s why Oprah is consistently held for her unprecedented staying power.
Also, with his recent criticism of Cornel West and Tavis Smiley, where he has since apologized for (he calling them “Uncle Toms”), he has demonstrated a willingness to get dangerously controversial. Only time will tell if he’s the best man for the job.
For now, Harvey continues to surprise. With Oprah already at her own network and Perry’s formal announcement that he’s not far behind, maybe Harvey will be the latest to join the real “BET — Black Entertainment Television” movement. After all, you can’t knock the hustle if it keeps paying these dividends.