‘Ricki,’ talk, talk, talk and more talk
Talk show host Ricki Lake has much to say, as do her guests
October 31, 2012
What does it take to make a daytime talk show? Judging by the new syndicated show "Ricki," all you need is talk.
Subtitled "The New Ricki Lake Show," it stars the former "Hairspray" actress, who hosted a previous daytime talk show, "Ricki Lake," from 1993 to 2004. Treating serious subjects too trivially and trivial subjects too seriously, it subjects viewers to a mass of verbiage from which they might glean some useful or helpful lessons but which is more likely to put them into a stupor.
"Ricki" sticks with the old-fashioned "Donahue" formula, with regular folks and self-styled experts appearing onstage with Lake, who occasionally ventures out to take questions from the audience. This format ensures that we never have a moment of silence in which to digest what has been said so far. Worse, the participants often ignore or misinterpret what has been said before, so potentially interesting lines of discussion fizzle out.
Last Thursday's episode dealt with infidelity. Lake introduced a husband and wife named Sa-ra and Val, who were deciding whether to stay together in the wake of his discovery that she had had an affair with an ex-boyfriend.
The couple seemed to have realized too late how embarrassing it would be to share their story with a roomful of strangers, never mind thousands of home viewers. Lake had to drag out of Val the explanation that Sa-ra wasn't giving her enough attention and that she had suppressed her unresolved emotions about her ex.
Sa-ra said that he wanted to try to save their marriage, but he mostly looked as if he wanted to crawl away. A licensed psychotherapist named M. Gary Neuman, who Lake said had helped her through her divorce, provided some boilerplate advice about apologies, communication and spending time "being in each other's lives." Lake ended the segment by saying that 1-800therapist.com was providing the couple with six months of free weekly therapy.
More bizarrely, a woman named Patti, wearing a hat, a blond wig and dark glasses, came out to confess that she had been cheating on her husband with her married boss for five years. To her credit, Lake pointed out that her disguise wouldn't really help — unless the husband was watching "Dr. Oz" — but Patti didn't seem to have considered that.
The expert brought in to help Patti was a woman named Sarah Symonds, who says she was the mistress of some famous British men and who now hosts a show about adultery on Canadian TV. She told Patti that she has to find something else to fill the gap in her life that the affair is now filling. But Symonds mainly wanted to share warning signs that one's husband is cheating.
An audience member got Patti to divulge that her father died when she was young and that her boss is older than her. Lake congratulated her audience on being such good therapists. After assuring Patti that she wasn't judging her, Lake told her she was also getting the free six months of therapy from 1-800therapy.com.
The final guest was a man named Steve Santagati, who has written a book called "The Manual," about being a "bad boy." Rehashing some old chestnuts about why men are biologically programmed to cheat, he seemed to be trying to work up the mostly female audience, like a pro-wrestling villain stalking around the ring. But they didn't really take the bait.
Santagati, Neuman and Symonds kept trying to make their own points while largely ignoring what the others were saying. The audience members had little to add.
Finally, Lake announced that she and the panelists were going to discuss what was behind some celebrity affairs — adding helpfully, "as if we know." Santagati criticized the looks and motives of Arnold Schwarzenegger's mistress, and everyone seemed to agree that if Robert Pattinson took Kristen Stewart back, he would be showing that he's less than a man.
Lake constantly implied that she could relate to what her guests were saying, even though she said she that had never cheated on a significant other and that infidelity wasn't a factor in her divorce. This raised the question of why exactly she is hosting this show, since she has no expertise, fails to express a coherent philosophy of life and isn't particularly charismatic.
Friday's episode had a vague theme of starting over, particularly in relationships. The first guest was a divorced woman who had been taking care of a son with Asperger's syndrome and a disabled sister and who was now ready to start living for herself. She got some advice from a psychotherapist and a quick makeover. Lake told her at the end of the show that she could keep the dress.
Then a gun-shy twice-divorced woman got some tips from a dating expert named Lauren Francis, who recommends that women stare at men in bars, beckon them over with their finger and then compliment them. A segment taped in a bar suggested that this actually works. Missing the point, Lake kept interjecting off-color remarks.
This somehow led to a long segment in which Trish Suhr, who has appeared in a home-improvement show on the Style Network, helped a war widow rearrange her closet and find a place to put mementos of her husband. The segment eventually started to sound like a sketch parodying product placements. Suhr repeated the name of the Container Store at least half a dozen times.
Lake must not have read the memo, because at one point she said that a certain type of hanger was also available at Costco. Suhr quickly suggested that the ones at the Container Store are better.
That wasn't the first time in these two episodes that people talked at cross-purposes. "Ricki" seems to operate on the theory that if it throws out enough words, something will stick. But it actually proves that after a certain amount of words, nothing sticks.
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