SAN FRANCISCO Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, whose cable talk show premiered this month, was in the studio between segments Thursday, catching up with Chip Conley, his next guest and old friend.
"How often are you up in Sacramento?" the hotelier asked.
"Like one day a week, tops," Newsom said. "There's no reason."
It can be slow at the Capitol.
"It's just so dull," Newsom said. "Sadly, I just, ugh, God."
Lieutenant governors have few official duties. But Newsom who later said he spends perhaps two days a week in Sacramento, not one keeps busy outside the office, most recently across the street from AT&T Park in San Francisco, in a small studio at Current TV.
There, "The Gavin Newsom Show" is taped Thursdays and airs Friday nights.
Political observers consider the hourlong program an opportunity for the politically ambitious Democrat to demonstrate his considerable policy knowledge to viewers who may know him only for his support of gay marriage or his positions on issues specific to San Francisco, where he was previously mayor.
"On the off chance that Gavin Newsom aspires to higher office," said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California, "this is the type of platform that could be very valuable for him going forward."
Lieutenant governors have long labored, often unsuccessfully, to remain relevant in state government. Newsom spent months last year promoting a jobs plan that the Brown administration favoring its own proposals largely ignored.
"Lieutenant governors, because of the relatively limited nature of their duties, the smart ones take on a certain number of extracurricular activities," said Garry South, a political consultant who advised Newsom to do the show.
In the studio, tape rolled, and from a production booth came Newsom's cue: "In five, four, three, two "
"Chip, great to have you on the show."
In the first installment of the program on the network co-founded by former Vice President Al Gore, Newsom said his goal is to share conversations he might otherwise have privately with interesting people.
"I don't think we are talking about creativity enough in politics, so it's a political show that doesn't have a lot of politicians," he said in an interview. "We're talking about governance in the context of innovation."
Newsom's guests have included champion cyclist Lance Armstrong, Google co-founder Sergey Brin and former Washington, D.C. public schools chancellor Michelle Rhee. Among the topics of discussion have been education, technology and what people can learn from failure.
"This is not 'Crossfire,' " Newsom said. "I'm not here to take cheap shots. I want to mine someone's brain for what's working."
The 44-year-old is promoting the show on social media, and already it has attracted some mainstream attention. The celebrity website TMZ reported on an interview from Newsom's first show, in which Armstrong said he is finished talking about doping allegations.
Newsom was more interested in Armstrong's support for a cigarette tax. The relatively subdued subject matter suggests Newsom is "trying to remake and re-craft a serious image not a one-note, gay rights, former mayor lieutenant governor," political analyst Barbara O'Connor said.
"It is really, I think, a venue where he will do well," she said. "Having said that, look at the demographics of Gore's channel, and it's largely liberal Dems, so he's not going to face a lot of criticism."
Newsom, who dropped out of the 2010 gubernatorial race before the Democratic primary, is widely considered a likely future contender for the office. He said his motivation is not to promote himself. The show, he said, is about his guests.
"I think it highlights, frankly, a lot of good things happening in California, at a time when we need to highlight what's going right in California," he said. "What I'm raising is the awareness and consciousness about what other people are doing."
Newsom hosted a radio show when he was mayor, and his voice is made for broadcast. He is still learning the mechanics of TV watching the floor manager and remembering not to laugh into his microphone though his guests would likely forgive a flub.
Newsom had read their books Thursday morning, and Paul Ingrassia, an author Newsom interviewed, said to an aide as he was leaving, "That was fun . He actually did his homework."
In the production booth, the show's executive producer, Mia Haugen, called Newsom "one of the smartest, most natural hosts I've ever worked with." He has become "more comfortable" on set since his first episode, she said, "very at ease, very confident."
Newsom and Conley were discussing Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs and what Conley called the "intersection of psychology and business."
Newsom said, "I want to turn after the break to how you turn failures in the past into success when we come back."
"Beautiful," Haugen said. "Tell him that was perfect."
Newsom wasn't sure. When Conley asked him how many people he had interviewed, Newsom said, "I'm glad you asked."
The question, he said, "suggests that it's not as bad as I think."
Newsom is trying to book former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. He said he would interview Gov. Jerry Brown "if he's willing."
That is unclear, given the uneasy relationship between the two. Newsom has publicly criticized Brown's economic policies, and Brown's administration has largely ignored the lieutenant governor.
Brown himself had a radio show in the 1990s. Five days a week on the Berkeley station KPFA, he interviewed poets, intellectuals and other personalities.
Brown said he didn't catch Newsom's first episode. "I don't know what the scheduling is," he said.
It airs on the West Coast on Friday nights at 8.