The crew manning “The Price Is Right” wheel at the Minnesota Star Fair was too busy seeking shelter from the storm and ogling showcase model James O’Halloran to notice that there was a bigger star in their midst.
“It’s nice to just be someone at the fair,” said Angelica McDaniel, readjusting her yellow folding chair each time employees marched through the WCCO storage shed with a stepladder, unaware they were coming dangerously close to scratching the legs of one of the more influential people in network TV. “I’m just trying to keep my hair from getting wet,” she said.
As the head of CBS daytime programming, the Brooklyn Park native oversees 1,200 employees, including soap opera stars, game show hosts and Sharon Osbourne. In 2012, the Hollywood Reporter called her one of the industry’s fastest-rising talents.
“Too many people can be cynical about popular TV. She isn’t,” said Mal Young, executive producer and head writer for the top-rated “The Young and the Restless.” “She’s got a seemingly unending amount of energy, enthusiasm and genuine passion for making great TV.”
But on a gloomy morning last week, McDaniel, 40, was less interested in ratings and more concerned with when the rain would let up so she could venture out for cheese curds.
Technically, she flew in from Los Angeles to make sure that visitors could snap selfies with announcer George Gray and pick up free swag from “The Price Is Right” exhibit.
But there was another motive.
This would be her 3-year-old daughter’s first chance to experience the State Fair, as well as her maiden voyage on a lake — specifically her uncle’s fishing boat. The previous night, the youngster got to cruise past the St. Louis Park building that once housed Radio AAHS, the now defunct network that gave her mom her first national exposure when she was all of 16 years old.
At that time, the teenage McDaniel dreamed of hosting “E! News Live” — and was gathering all the right credentials.
At Champlin Park High School, she anchored the televised daily announcements and interviewed Sen. Paul Wellstone. At AAHS, she hosted an afternoon children’s show and later got her own program on XM Satellite Radio.
McDaniel, who also starred in school plays and sang solos in choir, said her gift for gab comes largely from her Mexican-American father, Fernando Rosas, who believes in boisterous family gatherings, piñatas for birthday parties and tamales at the dinner table.
“It was natural that the kids grew up with the things I did,” said Rosas, who works in the construction business and still resides in Brooklyn Park with his wife, Terri, a blue-eyed, blond Norwegian-American. “We didn’t hide my culture. We carried on the traditions I grew up with.”
A speedy ascent
Shortly after moving to Washington, D.C., in 2001 to work in satellite radio, McDaniel got more involved behind the scenes.
“When I was younger, I would just go on the air and wing it,” she said. “But as I got older and started producing, I discovered all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into a show. I couldn’t take it for granted anymore, and I started to get nervous on the air. I realized the stakes.”
In 2005 McDaniel moved to Los Angeles and quickly landed a job producing web content for “The Tyra Banks Show.” By the time that series went off the air, she had risen to being the executive supervising the show for the studio.
In 2010, CBS decided to launch its first daytime talker, a big roll of the dice for a network that had remained No. 1 in the ratings solely on the success of soaps and game shows. With just 64 days before the premiere of “The Talk,” McDaniel was recruited to help.
“It was a runaway train,” she said. “Everyone was holding on for dear life.”
Mistakes were made. The original plan — to have the all-female panel talk almost exclusively about motherhood — was scrapped after two weeks. The chemistry among the original cast was off.
But McDaniel made the right adjustments. In 2016, the weekday series took home the Daytime Emmy for outstanding talk show.
The brass noticed. Within two years of coming to CBS, McDaniel was bumped up to senior vice president and became the youngest head of daytime TV in network history. These days, she’s also responsible for Saturday morning’s educational block of programming as well as development for CBS’ syndication company.
It’s a hectic schedule, especially for someone who admits to being a hands-on manager. Right before flying to Minnesota, she had been looking at footage for a new “Price Is Right” contest, offering her thoughts on color and lighting.
“I think when people think of executives, they think it might be someone who is just sitting in the office watching television. I think my mom still doesn’t know what it means,” said McDaniel, who starts her workday at 6 a.m. from the home she shares with her husband, comedian Brian McDaniel, and their two kids. “There are lots and lots of meetings, but you’ll usually find me at the shows, sitting in the writers’ room deciding where we’re going, having lunch with actors or helping to design the swag we’re giving out at the fair. I think people are surprised how involved I am.”
Showrunners say they welcome her input.
“She trusts the producers to do their jobs but is always there to help make the shows better,” said Mike Richards, who oversees “The Price Is Right” and “Let’s Make a Deal.” “She asks great questions — a lost art — and follows up with quick, intelligent decisions.”
Standing with Moonves
But sometimes there’s only so much that one person can handle.
During the State Fair rainout that forced the wheel to shut down and sent staffers into the WCCO shed, she tried unsuccessfully to keep checking her cellphone while digging into a bowl of fried peaches. After the phone dropped to the floor for the third time, she simply left it while she polished off her breakfast. When she picked up the phone 20 minutes later, she had missed 10 calls and 36 texts.
Despite the juggling act, McDaniel has the makings to be a future network president — an aspiration she readily expresses out loud. She’s stayed loyal to CBS Chairman Leslie Moonves in recent weeks as he faces accusations of sexual harassment from several women.
In a statement posted on Twitter, McDaniel said sexual harassment is something she would never tolerate.
“I developed under the leadership of Leslie Moonves, and the relationship has been one of respect and support, in an environment where talent and hard work rise to the top,” she wrote. “Statements about a culture of repression and subjugation of women have never been brought to bear on myself or my department in my eight years as a top executive at CBS.”
Last weekend, McDaniel stood by those comments. “At the end of the day, it’s business as usual,” she said. “We just have to keep focused on keeping the shows operating.”
And that included getting the wheel back into action.
As the storm tapered to a drizzle, McDaniel stepped outside, opening an umbrella large enough to accommodate half of “The Talk” panel.
Cheese curds had arrived. She was already getting excited for the following day, when her older daughter would join them for a zip down the Giant Slide and a visit to the Miracle of Birth Center.
“And, of course,” she said, “it’s going to be a gorgeous day!”
Neal Justin • 612-673-7431