Less than a month after PBS dropped Tavis Smiley’s talk show after reported inappropriate relationships with subordinates, Smiley announced a deal Monday to go back to work with a new series about inspirational stories.
His series, The Upside with Tavis Smiley, will be streamed online and shown on The Word Network, a religious-oriented cable and satellite channel directed at black viewers. He also announced a five-city “town hall” tour to talk about relationships in the workplace.
Among the men caught up in sexual misconduct cases over the past few months, Smiley has been most aggressive in fighting back and the first to publicly announce plans to resume his career. His new show is expected to start in the spring.
Smiley compared the experience to when he was fired by BET in 2001 for offering an interview that he had conducted with a newsmaker to ABC News before BET. He wrote books about rebounding from setbacks, and launched the late-night talk show with PBS that aired for 14 years.
“I would not wish this experience on my worst enemy,” Smiley said. “Having said that, the last time this happened, great things came out of it.”
Although conceding that what was once considered acceptable in the workplace may no longer be, Smiley has been defiant, suggesting that romances between professional colleagues is hardly unusual. However, PBS investigators reportedly found women who felt their advancement at work was tied to the sexual relationships, an assertion Smiley has denied.
He’ll be a test case for whether fans will be willing to overlook behavior that an employer considered out of bounds.
By fashioning a new program focusing on inspirational stories instead of more general interest news and entertainment, Smiley will sidestep the issue of whether his downfall would make celebrities reluctant to be interviewed by him. By striking a digital distribution deal with the media company AerNow and a little-watched cable network, he will also be much less visible.
SOURCE: The Associated Press