Nashville-based, Faith Hill-produced show starring country singer Kellie Pickler and reporter Ben Aaron is ‘family show, on-camera and off-camera’

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Country music singer Kellie Pickler says her new ABC afternoon show “Pickler & Ben” is “more than just a talk show.” That’s true in the sense that she and co-host Ben Aaron are almost always engaged in some sort of hands-on activity with their guests, whether cooking, doing a home makeover, or going out in the field to visit unusual small businesses.

But more importantly, Pickler says the show’s positive spirit has become something of a personal mission for what she describes as an “army” of cast and crew.

“It really is a family show, on-camera and off-camera,” Pickler says.

Many members of that family have traveled considerable distances to shoot the show in Nashville, as is the case for Aaron, a self-described “staunch New Yorker” and “hardcore city guy.”

Aaron first met Pickler in a chemistry test for “Pickler & Ben” last year. At that time producer Faith Hill was planning to match the North Carolina-born, former “American Idol” contestant Pickler with a similarly Southern co-host.

Aaron says he was flabbergasted when he was offered the co-hosting gig.

“I was like, ‘This is insane. These people must be on something really strong, and I’d like some of it if they could hook me up,’ ” he chuckles.

But it seems the show’s producers were attracted to an immediate rapport that formed between the two unlikely co-hosts.

“The moment we met, it was just this funny banter,” Pickler says. “We could completely be ourselves and we can talk smack to each other and we just play off each other well.”

Aaron says he and Pickler “immediately became the brother and sister you never wanted.”

“It’s like hanging out with young Dolly Parton and old Bob Saget,” he says.

Coincidentally, Parton herself was one of the first guests to stop by “Pickler & Ben,” arriving unannounced to the cohosts’ delight. Pickler says Parton’s surprise appearance was the highlight of her experience on the show so far.

“Hopefully she sprinkled some of that Dolly butterfly bedazzled sparkle on the show and hopefully it takes off,” Pickler says.

Aaron says his favorite experience on the show so far came when he and Pickler tried out goat yoga — a new trend in which baby goats frolic among, and sometimes on top of, people doing yoga.

“It was interesting because I had to explain to my wife why I had 150 red marks on my back,” Aaron laughs. “It’s like, ‘It’s a goat, honey. I swear it’s a goat.’ ”

All these offbeat shenanigans take place in the midst of a shoppable set, meaning that viewers can buy almost any of the furniture, accessories, and clothes they see on the show online. Pickler and Aaron note that Hill has been particularly hands-on in designing the set herself, to the point that Pickler says “it feels like walking into someone’s home.” Aaron notes that Hill actually brought a few pieces to the set from her own house.

“All we know is that we shouldn’t put things down on furniture because it could be this incredibly expensive, beautiful antique from the 1800s,” he says. “So no water bottles on tables.”

Pickler and Aaron both express a true passion for the new show and the ability it gives them to uplift individual people and small businesses through positive storytelling.

“I’m so scared to be part of a show that has the wrong kind of segments, the wrong kind of content, where we’re just doing stuff I don’t believe in,” Aaron says. “I believe in this stuff. I believe in what we do. … It’s a joy.”

Patrick Dunn is an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer.

‘Pickler

& Ben’

3 p.m. weekdays

WXYZ-TV (Channel 7)

picklerandben.com

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