Joan Lunden knows that if she hasn't yet conquered the world, she at least has it cornered.
She's an easy-mannered success in a high-voltage profession, she has a husband she can work with professionally as well as domestically -- their third child is on its way -- and she showers her mother with easy praise.
At home and at work, where she is the long-running cohost of ABC's "Good Morning America," her story, basically, has been one of success and happiness. She's even written a book about it.
So she offers careful qualification when asked about her father, who died when she was 12.
"Not to complain," said Lunden, "But if there is one disappointment in my life it is that my dad isn't here to see my success and my kids."
So today, as the country pauses, for at least a moment, to contemplate dads and fatherhood, Lunden teams with Alan Thicke to offer an appropriately scheduled special. The show, perhaps titled to reflect Lunden's state of mind these days, is called "Our Kids and the Best of Everything." It's an all-encompassing title for show that offers bits and pieces of things culled from many nooks and crannies of family life.
"We had 50 to 60 pieces of information" relating to family life, said Lunden, "and said how do we put this one together?"
Networks, she added, always flinch when you propose a program chock-full of information. So the challenge is how to package it.
A good answer to the challenge is to pack the show with celebrities and try to make people laugh, at the same time conveying the 50 or 60 pieces of information.
So there will be celebrities with a variety of family situations and recollections, recalling their experiences in a way that may strike a responsive emotional chord in the audience. And, of course, make people laugh.
So co-host Thicke, speaking from experience, describes one of the hardest things a parent will ever have to tell a child -- that his parents are about to divorce.
Comedian Danny DeVito will talk about what it was like growing up as a short person and the problems it posed to him and his parents when he was a kid.
Joe Namath, former swinger and latterday husband and father, is seen playing with his daughter Jessica. "Now," he says, "I know what it means to say, 'Love you, baby.'"
Harriet Nelson, a national mother figure and mother of late rock star Rick Nelson, may tug a few heartstrings when she reads a piece called "No More Wet Oatmeal Kisses." "We all know what she's been through," said Lunden.
In large measure, this special is a spinoff. In addition to her high-profile role on "GMA," Lunden hosts a show on the Lifetime cable network called "Mother's Day." The program, dealing with parental concerns, airs six days a week and is produced by her husband, Michael Krauss. Together, they produced today's special.
And the question of a joint venture raised questions. "I didn't want this to affect our family life," said Lunden. "We're different, as different as black and white," she said. In the end, she said, the differences meshed rather than clashed.
"He's creative, volatile," said Lunden. "I'm organized, methodical, calm. Given a subject, I'll figure out how to do it in a minute and 25 seconds. He'll take the same subject and come up with 'Gone With the Wind.'"
Having survived the professional collaboration, Lunden is scheduled to go on maternity leave from "GMA" in a week. That show, revised with Charles Gibson in place of David Hartman, has not overtaken the "Today" show for morning viewership. No matter for now. In a little while, Lunden will at least catch up to "Today's" Jane Pauley in the nursery numbers if not in the Nielsens.
Gibson, Lunden reported, has been a delightful addition to the show, professionally and personally, even though he drives everyone crazy with his stunning recall of trivia. "He's very bright," she said. "He even knows the $1,000 answers on 'Jeopardy.'"
Joan Lunden's father died in a plane crash when she was 12. He was a medical doctor, a son of missionary parents. "He had that missionary spirit," she said. "Mom always said he was vaccinated with gypsy blood. I think I had it too."
At one point Lunden thought she might like to go into medicine too. "I worked in a hospital that he and others had built. But I didn't take to the sorrow and tragedy of an emergency room."
Lunden's mother "is a pistol to this day," said Lunden. "She always told me, You can do anything, be anything, and whatever you do, it will make a difference.
"I thank her, and she knows how I feel about that."