IN 1996, a young digital animator named John McManus worked on the children's TV series Lil' Elvis and the Truckstoppers. On his desk was a small plastic model of the Warner Bros studio water tower. Now, 16 years later, John - better known as Rove - has an office on that studio lot, about three minutes' walk from the tower. ''It's a real pinch-me moment,'' McManus says.
The famous Los Angeles studio lot is home to Rove LA, McManus's weekly talk show, which begins a second season this week. ''Day one, we signed ourselves up for the studio tour, so you get all the history in one fell swoop,'' McManus says.
Season one of Rove LA aired from September last year with guests including Kathy Griffin, Lisa Kudrow, Hugh Jackman, Steve Carell, Justin Timberlake and Pink. Unusually for a talk show, it introduced its three guests simultaneously and allowed them to interact with one another throughout the show.
McManus, 38, admits there were teething problems. ''I fell into a trap with the first few shows, throwing it open to whoever wanted to pick up the ball and run with it. The first show worked because it was Kathy Griffin, but in subsequent weeks I realised I'd have to start by directing a question at someone to start - otherwise all I would see is people looking at each other, wondering who was meant to go first.''
The mostly-American celebrities loved the free-form style. ''After one show, someone said this is what every other talk show in America says its going to be like but never is,'' McManus says. ''And I was very proud of that.''
McManus says the show's looser format is driven, in part, by the prominence of celebrities on social networks such as Twitter. ''It's an immediate world, so the idea of saying, 'What have you been up to?' is redundant because most of the people watching for a guest know what they've been doing,'' he says. ''We live in a world where the PR bubble has been burst and people are wanting to be themselves.''
McManus doesn't believe, as many do, that talk is dying, but does believe it needs to evolve away from its formulaic structure and restore the art of conversation. ''I like a lot of podcasts, I listen to a lot of them, they're very conversational and they're often one on one, for an hour,'' he says. ''That's a feeling I want to embrace more in what I do.''
Some of the stars the show drew last year remain on the wish lists of top US talk shows, and Rove LA batted well above its weight. Without declaring his hand, McManus confirms there are as many as a dozen possible names attached to each week's show.
''I haven't gone in with a wish list this year, mainly because we did so well last year and I think my wish list would be very much like anyone else's,'' he says. ''You shoot for the stars and you go as high as you can go.
''What we have working in our favour is we have already done a series - and it went down very well with the talent and also the people who supply the talent, such as the agents and managers," he says. ''The biggest hurdle has been cleared. When you say Rove LA, people know the show.''
Fox8, Sundays, 7.30pm