I don't think it necessary to give a rundown of the first incarnation of either host. But I will cop to having "feelings" for Ricki Lake because of her advocacy in the world of pregnancy and childbirth. Having set up a birthing tub before The Business of Being Born was produced, I'm thankful that her film company brought the discussion of home birth to the masses.
So now you know I am square in the bulls-eye of the shows demographic. A set with accents in every shade of purple imaginable underscores this point, as I wait in vain for Breaking Bad's Marie to join the self help on the couch. Ricki, clad in black mini and tall boots, (an outfit I'm sure was focus grouped to death) exudes confidence and the all important relatability.
The first guest is a 40-something mother (of course!) with the tried and true problem of giving too much to those around her. Throw in a callous ex husband who leaves a note asking to dissolve their marriage and you have tears in under 5 minutes. However, "pluck" is the word of the day and our scrappy would be heroine smiles bravely; declares she's ready for change, because she is worth it. There was no immediate L'Oreal product placement as this is a kinder, gentler, version of Ricki's old show. Instead a licensed therapist helps with the emotional obstacles that are keeping our guest from being all that she can be. But never fear, the tried and true has not been totally abandoned and our divorcee is whisked away for a make over.
The rest of the show proceeded in a pretty shop worn vein. A matchmaker and Clean House's Yard Sale Diva were trotted out to help one guest conquer the dating scene, another their unruly closet. Whether Ricki is talking about her own divorce and subsequent remarriage or fielding questions from the audience, her easy camaraderie with the format is on display. Pleasantly surprised that the matchmaker gently chided Ricki when she tossed out a bit of slut shaming, the overriding tone of the is lots of hand holding with the occasional squeeze for emphasis.
Unfortunately a rushed ending had Ricki travel unconvincingly in "stars are just like us" territory: She has hangers from Costco and steams her own clothes! With credits rolling while folks were in mid sentence, what had been a decently timed product devolved into a Next Food Network Star demo.
The everyday people vibe is out the door from the opening scene of Katie Nope-No-Last-Name-Needed Couric's return to daytime TV. A "dream sequence" finds Katie prattling on to an unseen form in a twin bed alongside hers. Up pops none other than Matt Lauer. If tabloids are to be believed, he is no stranger to waking up next to women who are not his wife, but we are supposed to find this quaint and nostalgic.
Katie betters Ricki's tear factor by 4 minutes because she's out of the blocks with a family picture of her deceased husband and kids. Along with a quick joke about having to remember to shave her legs, it establishes the push/pull, gravitas followed by fluff formula that will ensue. Announcing that she is 55, with George Clooney on a back screen, and a Sheryl Crow song let me know that Katie is a safe zone for pilates and Chicos devotees.
I have purposely not listened to Jessica Simpson utter one word since her MTV days. Ending this boycott I gathered The Expected: OMG MOTHERHOOD IS EVERYTHING spiel. The Unexpected, Joe Simpson thinks her fiancee is the best Dad, even better than him. Very low bar considering most fathers do not comment on their daughter's breasts for GQ, but whatever. And The Joyous, Dolly Parton!!!
Jessica's baby weight loss struggle gives way to Sheryl Crow. Interview highlights include footage of Crow when she was Michael Jackson's back up singer, Katie happily supplying the adjective "perky" when Sheryl talks about trying to describe her in song and does touch the third rail that is Lance Armstrong. Crow says they are not currently in touch and that he worked very hard in his sport. She does NOT say she never saw him do steroids or that she believes he is innocent, make of that what you will. More OMG MOTHERHOOD IS EVERYTHING, with the added bonus that Sheryl's boys aged 5 and 2 keep her in shape. Hear that housewives of America? It's not personal chefs, trainers or state of the art equipment but just plain old motherhood that keeps Sheryl in such great shape. Honestly, it was an off hand comment that wouldn't register if it wasn't the refrain from just about every celebrity mother. The air of nostalgia comes around again bringing things to a close as Katie and some childhood friends who are in the audience recreate a snapshot of themselves from Junior High.
With flattering lighting, chic makeup and wardrobe Katie and her show are sleek, well calibrated vehicle. One that I personally have no interest in driving. The highly polished ending had a great split screen showing upcoming guests. Seeing Wendy Williams, a definite must in my love to hate category since her HOT 97FM radio days, was as excited as I got watching Katie for an hour. Woo Woo.
[Editor's Note: I, DivaJulia hate Katie Couric like poison. Sorry for the interruption, but I couldn't hold it in one second longer. ]
Written by: Kia K.