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TV Time With Tova

WEST CHESTER, Penn. -- Weather reports have been predicting yet another major winter storm for Pennsylvania, but at the QVC Network, the show must go on.<BR><BR>On this day, Tova Borgnine is scheduled to appear on an hour-long program featuring her...

WEST CHESTER, Penn. — Weather reports have been predicting yet another major winter storm for Pennsylvania, but at the QVC Network, the show must go on.

On this day, Tova Borgnine is scheduled to appear on an hour-long program featuring her color cosmetics and two fragrances. The day before, she focused on her hair care products, and the following day, she will sell her cactus-derived skin care line.

In the studio, from where almost all of the TV-shopping segments are broadcast, robotic cameras transmit images of the host, guest and merchandise. Computers alert the producer to the number of products sold and the number remaining.

Dozens of telephone operators are at work right in the studio itself, giving the host and guest the feeling of a live audience. In all, several thousand phone lines connect callers to QVC outposts in San Antonio and Chesapeake, Va., as well as to headquarters in this town outside Philadelphia.

Backstage, all of the day’s merchandise is lined up on tables. A sign with the time of the product’s scheduled appearance accompanies it. With each passing hour, staffers backstage move the item closer to the set.

None of the dialog will be scripted. Each product has its own blue index card, typed with a few lines of information for the host. The brevity of these cards, though, can be deceptive.

Emerging in her pink and black luncheon suit, Borgnine looks quite dressed up, particularly when standing next to most QVC staffers, who have chosen jeans and sweatshirts for a casual Friday.

Borgnine compares selling on TV to “having a 5,000-mile cosmetics counter.” Indeed, Borgnine has managed to establish a rapport with the QVC viewer that Darlene Daggett, QVC’s vice president of merchandising, says has enabled her to sell fragrance without the customer smelling it.

Before her noon show begins, a handful of Tova’s makeup sets have already been sold. The sets are available in four color stories — cactus pink, coral sands, sunset red and sunset red dark — and are priced at $99. The TV screen advises that viewers can buy the sets in “three easy payments” of $33.

“This is Valentine’s Day for yourself,” she says, encouraging women to treat themselves.

Meanwhile, three models on the set are putting on the makeup, assisted by a makeup artist. Extolling the quality of her brushes, Borgnine says, “You may have looked at models and actresses and said, ‘how do they do that?’ A large part of it is the tools.”

QVC keeps a product on the air for an average of six minutes. If it sells out or if it’s not moving at all, the producer moves on to the next item. But if it’s on QVC for the first time, the network gives it the full six minutes as a test.

With calls starting to pick up for the full makeup sets, Borgnine and Harfenist move on to her eye collections: Color-coordinated sets of mascara, liner, four eyeshadows and a brush that are priced at $39.50 with a retail value of $55.

Borgnine gives an application tip and takes a phone call. From there, the duo introduces a lip gift set and then more makeup.

In the final 15 minutes of the show, they turn to Borgnine’s two fragrances, Tova and Body, Mind & Spirit. QVC begins with several thousand units of each. The 3.3-oz. eau de parfum of Body, Mind & Spirit, given a special introductory price of $35.87, sells out.

In the Green Room, one of Borgnine’s business associates watching the program utters, “She is good today. I mean really. She is dead-on.”

The final tally for Borgnine’s three hour-long shows for the week: $761,415.