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Daily talk-show lineups will take a youthful turn

If you thought the big TV affiliate switch was over, think again. Come fall, area stations will be swapping syndicated series and shoring up their daytime lineups to better reflect their new images.

The trend this fall appears to be the incredible shrinking talk show host: Taking a cue from Ricki Lake _ who's tapped into a ripe and profitable twentysomething viewership _ this new crop of talkers are younger than ever.

Just check the newcomers' IDs: There's Tempestt Bledsoe, 22, of Cosby Show fame, who'll host her own gabfest on Channel 28. She'll follow Carnie Wilson, 26, of the bubblegum pop group Wilson Phillips.

WFLA-Ch. 8 will add a morning show from Charles Perez, 32, a former producer at Ricki Lake.

Channel 13 _ which loses ratings powerhouse Oprah this fall to WFLA-Ch. 8 _ snagged a new talk show hosted by Gabrielle Carteris, 34, who starred in the Fox teen soap Beverly Hills 90210. She'll be followed by newcomer Mark Walberg, 32, the host of ESPN's Burnt Toast (not the rapper/underwear model known as Marky Mark). The oldest of the bunch? Danny Bonaduce, the 35-year-old Partridge Family member, then comedian, then disc jockey, now TV host.

Late at night, Channel 13's alternative to Conan O'Brien will be Stephanie Miller, a Los Angeles radio talk show host and comedienne in her early 30s.

Carving out a youthful afternoon anchored by Lake is part of the station's overall plan to lure twentysomething viewers away from soap operas on competing stations, said Marketing Director Mark Demopolous.

But given Channel 13's live coverage of the O. J. Simpson murder trial, some of those shows may not air for months.

"Our intent is to continue with the trial to the end," Demopolous said. "Agreements or contracts won't supersede that."

Mornings on Channel 13 will still be reserved for the station's traditional older audience. Regis and Kathie Lee will be followed by George Hamilton and Alana Stewart's new chat show. The move bumps Jerry Springer's often outrageous show off the morning lineup _ and off the station altogether.

Why the short run for Springer, which debuted in May? Bonaduce _ who has a history of drug abuse and troubles with the law _ was "less controversial," Demopolous said.

Young viewers aside, WFLA-Ch. 8's news division stands to gain the most by luring Oprah away from Channel 13. Even with increased competition, Oprah has proved a formidable lead-in for Channel 13's No. 1-ranked 5 p.m. broadcast.

Give WTSP-Ch. 10 credit for bringing a local star home to area viewers not once, but twice, this fall. Actress/model Lauren Hutton _ who grew up in Tampa near Carrollwood, graduated from Chamberlain High School and attended the University of South Florida _ will star in CBS's new New York soap, Central Park West. The Burdines model also will host Lauren Hutton and . . . , billed as a Barbara Walters-style half-hour interview show. That will air at 1:30 a.m., after Tom Synder's Late Late Show.

They say TV is a small business. Everybody knows everyone else. Gossip flies faster than the Concorde.

This week, Channel 10 found out just how small the world is, when talk that the station was up for sale spread around the country.

Channel 10 is owned by Citicasters Inc., which owns WKRC in Cincinnati and 16 radio stations around the nation. Speculation that the company was looking to get out of the television business prompted talk that Channel 10 was on the seller's block.

The gossip even reached a national electronic newsletter about the broadcast industry, the suspense heightened in part by news that General Manager Steve Mauldin called an all-staff meeting Friday. (The memo touting the meeting promised "a positive announcement of significant importance to all employees.")

One story had Mauldin teaming up with the Outback Steakhouse ownership group to buy the station. Another had the Connecticut-based Post-Newsweek company interested in adding Channel 10 to its collection of six TV stations.

As of Friday, none of those stories proved true.

Though Mauldin makes no bones about his desire to own Channel 10, he knows he'll have to wait. That's because the station isn't for sale, says Greg Thomas, the executive vice president and chief financial officer at Citicasters Inc.

"I can't buy it now. They don't want to sell it," Mauldin said Friday. "But if they decide to ever sell the television station, I'd like to be the one."

Mauldin said he did have financial backing to buy the station at one time, but not from local investors. He denied discussing a purchase plan with the Outback founders, a claim the restaurant chain's CEO Chris Sullivan supported.

"We never had one meeting with Steve (Mauldin). There's no truth to the rumor. . . . It's not happening," Sullivan said.

Executives at Post-Newsweek, a subsidiary of the Washington Post Co., could not be reached for comment.

But what about the big meeting Mauldin called Friday? It was to tell employees about a big insurance discount and to tout his excitement over CBS's rebounding fall lineup. How that turned into news of a sale says as much about human nature as it does the television industry.

"News is a big part of the rumor mill," Mauldin joked.

_ To reach Monica Yant, call 893-8521 or e-mail