By Lynn Elber
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
LOS ANGELES _ Queen Latifah is making changes in her daytime talk show for its second season. The biggest, she said, involves her.
“Everything at the end of the day comes down to me being myself,” Latifah said. “My whole goal this year is to be more loose, more playful, more fun, more provocative.”
The result, she said, will be “juicy.”
“For me, it’s having a good old time and being La,” Latifah said.
Her first year with “The Queen Latifah Show,” which returns this week in syndication (check local listings), provided a lesson in what worked and what didn’t. The show has a new executive producer, Todd Yasui, to steer it.
Celebrities, of course, remain part of the equation. Reese Witherspoon, Toni Braxton, Goldie Hawn, Kristen Bell and Snoop Dogg are among those appearing in week one. The “get” Latifah still is angling for: President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.
During the first season, the 44-year-old singer and actress said, audiences responded to the show’s motivational, upbeat elements, and they’ll be more prominent this time around.
An initiative dubbed “One Step Further” will help empower people to pursue their dreams, she said, with a segment Wednesday focused on children in Camden, New Jersey.
“Queen Screen” will beam Latifah via big-screen to public venues such as malls, surprising people with both the host and prizes. “The High Note” is a recurring segment in which Latifah, guests and studio audience members share good news for a cheery ending to the hour.
Her unique status as a pioneering rapper is key to another goal.
“While I have a show, I can help female rappers have a voice and be heard,” Latifah said. “Hip-hop is such a big genre of music with such big influence that it can change the world. But it can’t change the world without a woman’s voice in it.”
“Queen Latifah” is competing for viewers with entrenched series including “Dr. Phil” and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” as well as newcomer “The Meredith Vieira Show,” hosted by the former “Today” personality.
Bill Carroll, an expert on the syndication market for Katz Media, said “Queen Latifah” did “good, not great” in its debut year, trailing “Dr. Phil,” ”The Steve Harvey Show“ and others in the ratings. Improving its numbers represents a challenge.
“The most difficult thing for any show, even in a second season where there’s some reinvention, is that the audience has already sampled the show,” Carroll said. “And for the most part, if it’s not in a new time period they’ve already made their decision.”
Latifah said she’s ready for battle, with all due respect to her rivals.
“We all know what this (competition) is and we all go hard,” she said. “I wish everybody the best of luck, but I’m focused on making this show a hit and building our audience.”
Lynn Elber is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. She can be reached at lelber(at)ap.org and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lynnelber.