Friday morning’s cancellation of “The Queen Latifah Show” seemed like a pretty cut and dry decision to most, but insiders would say that its demise wasn’t a surprise to those involved and is helping to pave the way for a new, more competitive daytime entry.
“When they launched the second season, they knew it was make or break time,” an individual close to production told TheWrap. “The writing was already on the wall.”
The show ended its first season as the No. 1 new talk show in daytime, but still its ratings weren’t very high. Ahead of Friday’s cancellation, the show still isn’t heating up the ratings chart in its second season. It measured a 1.1 household rating in the most recent week available, with 1.4 million total viewers. Season-to-date, it’s averaging a 1.0 with 1.4 million total viewers, which means that her audience is staying level and that they’re loyal.
So, why cancel a show with a name host and an allegiant audience?
Perhaps, the host didn’t want to continue.
According to one of TheWrap’s insiders, Latifah was only signed for a two-year contract and probably realized that it wouldn’t be renewed. “I think she was phoning it in the whole time,” the individual said.
A representative for producer Sony Pictures Television wouldn’t comment on its decision to end the show beyond its statement thanking Latifah, the show’s staff and its advertisers.
And, perhaps there is a replacement waiting in the wings.
In October 2013, Hilary Estey McLoughlin left Telepictures to become president of creative affairs at CBS TV distribution. Up until recently, she was developing her own “baby” in a forthcoming daytime talk show with actor Jerry O’Connell.
The insider speculated that CBS affiliates, which aired “Latifah,” are much more inclined to keep things in the family. “CBS would obviously rather buy a product from CBS,” the individual said.
With troubles of its own, the O’Connell project was searching for two “comedic women” to accompany the actor each day on a panel. One individual told TheWrap that popular “So You Think You Can Dance” host Cat Deeley came into test as a possible co-host and decided on-the-spot that it wasn’t the right choice for her.
Contrary to what the insiders said, a representative for CBS-owned TV stations laid the blame for the show’s end squarely with Sony TV. He told TheWrap that the company had just found out about the “Latifah” cancelation itself on Friday morning and that it had no idea what it will put in its place on the schedule at this time.
Maybe, there’s some big competition on the horizon.
Tyra Banks is set to return to daytime in Fall 2015 with her own daytime panel talk show with co-hosts model Chrissy Teigen, Elle creative director Joe Zee, designer Lauren Makk and YouTube star Leah Ashley. And the buzz about town is that the Disney-ABC-produced talk show’s pilot is fantastic.
“People are running scared, because Tyra’s pilot is amazing, probably the best offering for the format next year,” another individual with knowledge of the decision told TheWrap. “Whatever goes against Tyra has to be really strong.”
With Latifah’s so-so ratings, the show isn’t in the best position to take on Banks. Plus, there’s a fear that two black women on television will divide the audience.
“I think race had a bit to do with it,” the insider said. “And perhaps two black females in the category would split the audience.”
CBS TV may believe a show hosted by a white male like O’Connell can set itself apart from Banks. No pressure, right?
“CBS needs this to be a hit,” the insider said, “so they have viable competition for Tyra’s daytime show that ABC is launching in the fall.”
Update: TheWrap has confirmed that O’Connell’s show has been dropped by CBS TV Distribution.