Monday (Sept. 15) is phase two of the battle for daily attention in non-network time slots. Last week brought Arsenio Hall (the opener was OK, but not great) and Bethenny Frankel; Monday brings Queen Latifah, who could quickly catch on. Here's the story I sent to papers; scroll down a ways and you'll find the ones last week on Hall and Frankel, plus an overview. In between is my TV-season preview:
By MIKE HUGHES
Let's think of this as a very long
The original “Queen Latifah Show”
began when its host was 29. It ran two years and drew shrugs.
Now, 14 years later, “The Queen
Latifah Show” is considered this year's strongest daytime newcomer.
Latifah's become a star whose guests will be older (the first is John
Travolta) and younger.
Pop star Willow Smith, 12, has already
put in her name. “She said to me, 'I want to go on Auntie Latifah's
show,'” said her mom, Jada Pinkett Smith.
Jada is one of the show's producers,
along with her husband Will Smith (another of the first-week guests)
and others. “One of the things I love about Latifah is that she's
fearless,” she said. “So I just want her to have fun, to have a
This was already an interesting person
back in 1999, when the original show debuted. She was born in Newark
(as Dana Owens), went to Catholic schools there, lived nearby and
went to Irvington High School, where her mom taught. She kept
conquering new worlds – basketball in high school, rap at 18, then
the “Living Single” situation comedy at 23.
Since then, she's kept adding things.
“I really have never looked at things as impossible,” Latifah
She enjoys recalling people's
astonishment: “'So let me get this right: This girl wants to rap in
a male-dominated field and call herself Queen Latifah? OK, now she
wants to act? …. Now you want to make a musical, now you want to do
a jazz album? You want to ... rob some banks?'”
Some of her biggest moves came after
that first talk show died. Some of her movies failed, but “Chicago”
brought her an Oscar nomination. She sang at the Super Bowl and the
Academy Awards, hosted a White House concert, did duets with Tony
Bennett and Stevie Wonder and more.
She accumulated famous friends,
including rocker Lenny Kravitz. He'll be a first-week guest and his
company designed and built the set.
“I call it 'Big Sexy,'” Latifah
said of the set. “It is pretty big and very sexy. (It's)
contemporary. It looks like nothing else on TV.”
It includes chatty spaces, where she
can talk with non-show-business people who hsve uplifting stories.
And it has bigger concert spaces. “We love music, so … we have to
have everybody,” Latifah said.
That even includes country. Latifah
said she hopes to have Garth Brooks; Jada Pinkett Smith mentions
“Toby Keith, who's a friend of ours.”
The list goes on, said Corin Nelson,
another of the producers. “She loves country, she loves pop, she
loves R&B, she loves rap, she loves jazz.” She seems to like a
lot of things and people … which can be very handy when you have a
daily talk show.
“The Queen Latifah Show”
Weekdays, starting Monday
(Sept.16), on a non-network line-up; check local listings