You knew it was going to happen eventually. This week it was announced that Oprah Winfrey, the undisputed queen of all media, is starting her OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network — What else would it be called?) cable television channel. This joint venture with Discovery Communications is set to debut in mid-2009 and will replace the Discovery Health Network.
In an article in the Los Angeles Times, Winfrey said that the name “means more than just ‘The Oprah Winfrey Network.’ It’s about owning yourself, owning your possibilities and owning your future. When I wrote that down in my journal, on May 24, 1992 (that she would create her own television network), I said to myself: ‘Look at that. Isn’t it great how the name worked out that way?’ And this announcement today fulfills my vision.”
And my worst nightmare. I can barely take 1 hour of the Mighty O, imagine having 24/7/365 of Oprah-related, Oprah- inspired programming. Yes, I did listen to her XM Satellite channel, “Oprah and Friends” featuring all of her favorite gurus and her BFF, Gayle King. But that was so last year. I’ve moved on to the political cockfights known as the presidential campaigns and back to my most guilty pleasure, reality television. “LA Ink”, the series about fabulous tattoo artists, had its season premiere this week and you know I love me some Kat Von D, the rocking owner of the shop where they work. And “Make Me a Supermodel”, about model-wannabees somewhat in the vein of the CW Network and Tyra Banks’ creation, “America’s Next Top Model”has become appointment viewing. Oh, by the way, when is the new cycle going to start? That reminds me, good lord when is Kimora Lee Simmons coming back with some new episodes of “Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane”? I love you Janice Dickinson like Peter loved the church — you, supermodel, agent extrordinaire, and star of the “Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency”, — but I have to have my “fabulosity” fix and only my sistah Kimora can deliver it.
Now answer me this, how can Oprah with all her feel good, soft and pink O-ness compete with such titillating, albeit juvenile, fare? In this current climate, with our thoughts on the war and the recession among other pressing issues, do we want heavy medicinal doses of the self-help that Oprah/OWN is likely to deliver? And have we tired of her influence, if not on our lives, but on the media landscape?
I suspect that she will have great ratings at first — just out of curiosity. Even I might take a peak. But will she duplicate the success of her highly-rated, long-running television show or the relative failure of her movies, “Beloved” and “The Great Debaters”?
All this talk about OWN has me thinking about my own network. Stop laughing. Anything is possible if you only believe. That’s what Oprah and “The Secret” told me. And I believe that my CRT (Carla Ray Television) network will become a reality.
How will I program it? Thanks for asking. Well, I’ve been a news junkie since the age of 7. (I am sure that if you are a regular reader, this bit of weirdness should be of no surprise to you.) So, I would have news/information programming in the morning from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. Sure you will have weather, general news from places other than the West or East Coasts and politics. I’d have pundits providing analysis but you won’t see MSNBC’s Screaming Mimi Chris Matthews, the same network’s snarky Keith Olbermann or “crazy for ratings” FOX News Network’s, Bill O’Reilly. No and hell no. We’ve heard enough from these clowns. My network would have new voices which would include little heard from scholars like Shelby Steele of the Hoover Institute and regular people who have real-life expertise/experience — all engaged in spirited discussions.
Nine o’clock will begin my slate of children’s programming — for the child in all of us. I am a big cartoon fan. I love the nonsensical zaniness of “Spongebob Squarepants”. And my new favorite is “The Backyardigans”, a group of multi-colored animal friends who sing and dance their way through wonderful adventures. How could I resist a show with characters named Tyrone and Uniqua?
Mid-afternoon would feature at least one judge show– talk about delivering major life lessons. From watching “Divorce Court“, “The People’s Court” and “Judge Mathis” among others, I’ve learned never to loan money to anyone, buy my boyfriend a cellphone, babysit anyone’s children for money (cause they won’t pay you), and marry someone after meeting him online and dating for two weeks. Hey, you know, I could be the star of my own court show and dispense justice rivaling only the god of the Old Testament. I’d look great in the robe. Black is my color.
And of course, I’d have to have some reality television in the mix. I am not quite sure yet what it would be. How does “Flavor of Love” meets “America’s Next Top Model” meets “American Gladiators” sound to you? It sounds to me like one hot, nasty mess — the kind that viewers love to watch.
Oh, I can hear your sighs of disappointment from here. I never promised you high brow fare–the kind which you always say you want but never watch. CRT (Carla Ray Television) or OWN (The Oprah Winfrey Network), which one would you want to watch? Now tell the truth.
Here are more details on OWN from Multichannel News (“Lowdown on the Upfront: Oprah’s PItch of Her OWN”):
“If you’re an advertiser who cares about programming with a purpose, if you want your brand to be a part of something that aims to have an impact on how people can live their lives like they matter, our network OWN [The Oprah Winfrey Network] is going to be someplace you want to be,” Winfrey said in the brief video shown at Discovery’s upfront presentation…
“All the years of doing The Oprah Winfrey Show have lead me to this very moment,” Winfrey said. “Our goal for OWN is to help the viewer do exactly what we’ve done inThe Oprah Show: To help our viewer realize their deepest, truest self. All the programs on OWN are intended to inspire, to engage, to help our viewers live their lives as if it mattered, because it does. I want to shine a light on how people can be more of themselves.”
Oprah has annointed… I mean appointed someone to sit at the throne…I mean head (a.k.a CEO) of OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network. The blessed one is Christina Norman, formerly of MTV Networks (I wonder if this is the heifer who brought us that pox on humanity, Flavor Flav.) For more about the appointment, click here.