Your OWN Oprah
As of January 1st, 2011, Oprah has her own network – OWN – but is too nice?
This story was originally covered by PRI's Here and Now. For more, listen to the audio above.
The Oprah Winfrey Network, or OWN has all the usual suspects for a women's channel: self-help offerings, a cooking show and a reality show. What makes the network different is Oprah's goal: "not to have mean spirited television." Although this goal is in conflict with the tone of much of today's TV, television critic Alessandra Stanley says that with Oprah's name on the product, it will be successful.
"There's nothing on it that you haven't seen on another cable network," Stanley explains. "It's just been 'Oprahfied,' so that it's slightly classy and as she says 'mindful." In the TV critic's eyes, Oprah is about self-invention. While glossy reality television contestants sabotage each other on other networks, on OWN's "Your OWN Show," the competition between less-varnished contenders is clean. "Enough Already! with Peter Walsh" provides a proactive alternative to A&E's fear-based "Hoarders." As Stanley says, "You don't have catfights, and you don't have 'real house wives,' you actually have real housewives."
The weak point of the network is Oprah's effort to integrate famous people. "Finding Sarah" is a show that will chronicle the Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson's quest for spiritual growth. "This is where you see the Oprah being a little too Oprah. Most cable networks -- they take ordinary people and make them famous. Oprah wants to take people who are already famous and let them pretend that they're ordinary." Stanley questions the average viewer's ability to relate to the Duchess's life and struggles. Simon Cowell, Diane Sawyer, Jay Z and other celebrities are also given too much control over their own product during hour-long autobiographies.
Moving outside the traditional television show structure may be a risk, and not always a successful move for OWN, but Stanley has faith that it will stay around.
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