It's important to remember that
I say this because Queen Latifah debuted her daytime talk show, "The Queen Latifah Show," Monday. Every new daytime host is rated on a scale of 1 to Oprah, but if you are a curvy black woman who is also an actress seeking to create "a safe space" in which people will feel comfortable enough to share things with you, well, that comparison has to be intense.
So perhaps Latifah will be forgiven for swinging more toward that other queen of daytime
Latifah showed up for her first day of work in a white suit with a black blouse, and yes, yes, it was obviously a testament to
And about that first guest. I'm as big a fan of Travolta's as the next middle-aged female viewer who learned how to dance to the Bee Gees, but when Latifah said she had chosen him because he "embodied" everything she hoped her show would be, I found myself at something of a loss. Certainly Travolta is a durable, even multi-talented performer, but no one could accuse him of generating anything like heat these days.
He falls more into the mildly beloved category, mainly because he seems to be such a genuinely nice guy, always ready to help out a friend. (He showed up on
All of which may personify that safe space Latifah hopes to create. But as a way of promoting her show, well, watching stars smile and thank each other for being fabulous is not exactly riveting television. The smallest noise in the next room — a dust mite settling, a dog scratching fleas could — could, and did, prove a distraction.
A pre-taped segment in which Latifah honored a local music teacher by taking him and his students to
A life could be lived quite fully without ever seeing 12-year-old
This is Latifah's second shot at a daytime talk show — the first, debuting in 1999, focused on the music world and lasted two years. This time, an "older and wiser" mood is definitely in play, and Latifah's career guarantees A-list guests including Smith, Jamie Foxx and
Still, it's hard to tell from the premiere precisely what Latifah is going for here, besides the truly fabulous set that was, apparently, designed by Lenny Kravitz.
Not surprisingly, the best bits revolved around her — a brief, amusing song spoof of "Stayin' Alive," a funnier series of her promoting her show via scenes from various Emmy contenders. (I wish Queen Latifah would show up in Don Draper's office and read him the riot act — seriously, how great would that be?)
As previously noted, Oprah wasn't built in a day. Latifah could wind up with a new sort of hybrid of variety/talk show and that would be great. She too is talented, versatile and charismatic. Though she is always at her most attractive when she's back-talking (or singing) the sense into someone.
Nice may be the new snark, and who would argue with that trend? Unfortunately, nice isn't a new gig, "Ellen" has built an empire on it already.
But you can be fair-minded and good-hearted and retain some edge. At least you can if you're Queen Latifah and keep an open mind while figuring this whole talk show thing out.
[Updated at 9:20 p.m. A previous version of this post misspelled Jake Gyllenhaal's first name as Jack.]