Ray Richmond contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.
Fresh from her second marriage (in April) and a monthlong honeymoon in Spain, Ricki Lake met the critics at TCA in advance of her second go-around in the syndicated daytime talk wars. Twentieth TV’s The Ricki Lake Show joins the battle on September 10, cleared in 99.5% of the country. She’ll be entering a crowded chat market that includes fellow newcomers Katie Couric, Jeff Probst and Steve Harvey. Unlike those three, Lake has been down this road before, having had a mega-successful 11-year run (1993-2004) with her previous daytime talker. Lake began that one at the tender age of 24. Now she’s 43, hardened by life, once-divorced and the mother to two school-age kids. “I really want lightning to strike twice,” Lake said during a lunch panel. “There’s a lot of pressure, a lot of money invested in this show. But I feel like I have more to offer this time. Last time, I was just trying to be Oprah. This time, I’m wiser and more evolved.” The show is also being done out of L.A. this time (Culver Studios) rather than New York City as her previous show was. She promises “a little less fluff and more substance” this time around, even though she proudly claims to be neither a doctor nor a therapist nor a super homemaker — just a working mom sporting battle scars and relatability.
This all began to take root, Lake said, when she went on Dancing With the Stars last year. “That was kind of a test for me,” she acknowledged. “I wasn’t sure if people would root for me again. I was pleasantly surprised to see how they welcomed me back and voted for me.” The Dancing stint also helped to serve as something of a walking advertisement for Lake’s latest coming-out party, keeping her from having to do as much of the meet-and-greet with station managers around the country. And now here she is, back in the talk show whirl again. “I feel like there’s a relatability and a trust there with the work that I’ve done,” Lake said. “We were a phenomenon back in the day even though I didn’t know what I was doing. But I’ve been through a lot since then. I’ve been rich, I’ve been poor, I’ve been fat, I’ve been thin. I have life experience. And I’m willing to share all of those failures and triumphs with the audience.”
Afterward, Lake commented on the fact she starred in the pilot for the series that would become the ABC comedy The Middle, only to have her lead role recast with Patricia Heaton when it went to series. “I haven’t seen the show, but (not having to do it) was actually a relief because I’m just better doing this. They went older. It wasn’t even a case of me being replaced, they revamped the show because it was during the (writers) strike. We had done the pilot and the strike happened, they held on to my option for another six to eight months, then they revamped it a year later with her.”