After sifting through 800 audition tapes, producer Brandon Tartikoff has chosen Brianne Leary, niece of '60s LSD guru Timothy "Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out" Leary, as host of his new late-night show, "Last Call." (Suggested promo: "Tune In, Tune In.")
"She's a total free spirit," says Mr. Tartikoff of the L.A.-based actress-journalist. "Very engaging. Kind of off-the-wall, yet focused enough to be moderator. She's got opinions and has a sense of fun."
"Call," a hip weeknight show about news and pop culture, is targeted to launch in national syndication in the fall. The pilot was scheduled for taping yesterday in Los Angeles, with Ms. Leary being joined by a panel of commentators.
The lineup: Former Esquire editor Terry McDonell, on lifestyles; Tad Low, resident funny guy on Fox's "Front Page," on pop culture; National Public Radio contributor Elvis Mitchell, on entertainment, and Sue Ellicott, a correspondent for the Times of London, on news. (A sports person will be named.) All but Mr. McDonell are in their 20s and 30s.
The 30ish Ms. Leary has a wide-ranging and eclectic list of credits.
As an actor, she had regular roles on such series as the short-lived "Black Sheep Squadron" and the hit "CHiPS," both on NBC. She also appeared in "The Dream Merchants," a miniseries with Mark Harmon and Vincent Gardenia.
As a journalist, Ms. Leary has written magazine pieces from Ireland, Afghanistan, Cambodia and Vietnam, as well as a book, "But . . . What Have You Done Lately? Detours From Hollywood." As a screenwriter, she rewrote "Side Out" (1990), a Tri-Star feature film.
More recently, Ms. Leary has popped up as a correspondent for such now-defunct shows as ABC's "That's Incredible: Sunday" and Fox's "Personalities." She also co-produced an ABC special, "Love, Sex and Relationships in America."
"I didn't study her resume. I looked at her tape," says Mr. Tartikoff of Ms. Leary.
"This girl comes through the camera. That's who I want. I tried not to get hung up on who had the most journalistic credentials or TV credits." Mr. Tartikoff, who had said he was looking for another Katie Couric as host, says he found her in Ms. Leary.