Among the new crop of hosts hoping to fill the gap left by Oprah's absence from the syndicated talk show ranks is one returning genre veteran. Twentieth Television and Ricki Lake hope the magic is there again as they take a different approach from her earlier show that ended an 11-year run in 2004. This time, Lake will will tackle personal issues — usually a few per show — of interest and importance to the target audience of women, 25-54.
Older, Wiser Ricki Lake Set For Syndie Return
With a number of people prepping to prove they have what it takes to win as syndicated talk show hosts, Twentieth Television is banking on Ricki Lake to rekindle her success in the role.
But The Ricki Lake Show, planned for 2012, will not be a reincarnation of the old, sensationalistic Ricki Lake, which ended an 11-year run in 2004, says Stephen Brown, Twentieth’s SVP of programming & development.
Rather, the new one-hour show will tackle personal issues — usually a few per show — of interest and importance to the target audience of women, 25-54, with an older, wiser Ricki (she’s now a 41-year-old divorced mother) leading the discussion, Brown says.
The pilot, filmed last month, will be typical. It explores whether it’s OK to spy on your kids and the stresses on military wives whose husbands are overseas. It also includes a celebrity guest (Brown won’t say who it is) promoting a cause — a feature that also will be semi-regular on the show.
Lake’s interaction with the audience is key as well, Brown says. The pilot includes an impromptu Q&A, during which the audience asked Lake questions.
Segments filmed on location also will be included in the show.
The set — complete with couch, coffee table and plants – reflects the show’s “contemporary, light, feminine feel,” Brown says. Special guests get a spot next to Lake on the couch. Others are peppered around the audience.
With Oprah gone, the world of syndicated talk shows should be ready for a talk show with women-oriented, human interest stories, Brown says. “The question is not who can be the next Oprah,” Brown says. “The better question is who can now serve that audience and address the issues they are interested in.”
Although many of the topics will be serious, like how to keep kids safe on the Internet, there’s also room for lighter subjects, such as a “Bridesmaids’ Bill of Rights,” Brown says.
Brown envisions The Ricki Lake Show as an alternative to news-to-talk personalities Katie Couric and Anderson Cooper.
Cooper, from Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution, is set to debut next month. Disney-ABC’s Couric’s still-unnamed talker is to premiere in September 2012 at the same time as Ricki.
Twentieth plans to start selling the show in October; basic terms of the sale are not yet available.
Industry watchers say Lake has as good a chance as any in the tough first-run syndication business.
“With Oprah’s departure, Ricki can try to reconnect with the young women who were her viewers in their youth,” says Bill Carroll, Katz Television VP and director of programming. “If the program can deal with the topics and issues that Ricki’s generation now face, the program has the potential to attract both her past fans and new viewers. But that program has to be targeted to that specific audience segment.”
Brian Lowry, Variety’s TV columnist and critic, agrees, saying he “thinks she makes sense. I don’t know that there’s a big clamoring for another talk show, and one fronted by her, but the truth is that she’s done it,” Lowry says, adding that Lake’s personal issues, like weight gain, makes her “appealing and relatable.”
“Of all the dumb ideas I hear about in the course of what’s going into development, this is not at the top of the heap,” he says.
“There are a lot of contenders for 2012,” Brown says. “But we are certainly happy to be one of them.”