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Oprah Winfrey Network debuts today; what do you think so far?



ow_3.jpgHere's a surefire recipe for a little unrest in the home during the holiday season:

Write an article criticizing Oprah Winfrey when you're married to a stone fan of the Queen of All Media.

My wife couldn't help giving me a bit of the stink eye Friday, as I completed interviews with CNN and the Independent newspaper in London, offering a few sage thoughts on the start of the divine Ms. Winfrey's new cable TV venture, which debuted at noon today. An interview I conducted a while ago with NPR on the same subject also aired Friday, turning me into the most high profile critic who didn't speak to Winfey, speaking ON Winfrey.

In the hourlong guide to OWN which kicked off the network's debut today, we all saw a lot of the weaknesses I highlighted in my earlier interviews: lots of unscripted fare which sometimes felt like stuff you could see elsewhere; not many shows actually featuring Oprah herself and a surprising amount of series featuring celebrities in crisis feeling sorry for themselves on television.

But it all comes wrapped in the soothing balm of Oprah's brand, a reputation for self-empowerment and charity that goes a long way with her devoted fans. The early schedule feels like a series of trial balloons anyway; a way to test the feel of a 24/7 channel before debuting the most important programs, all scheduled for later in the year.

your_own_show_comp_rgb.jpgThe channel also announced the finalists for its unscripted series, Your OWN Show, a reality TV-style competition allowing non-celebrities to compete for the job of hosting a show on Winfrey's network. The list of finalists didn't include Tampa teacher Phyllis Tucker-Wicks, whose designation last year as the second-highest online vote-getter led to allegations that the contest was rigged.

Tucker-Wicks has refused requests for interviews, but the contest's rules indicate she should have competed in Los Angeles with about 40 other finalists in an attempt to reach the top 10. Those 10 are to face a series of challenges with will form the bulk of the show, produced by Survivor executive producer Mark Burnett.

Here's a link to the Independent's article including my analysis, and click here to read a telling analysis from longtime Chicago media reporter Robert Feder -- in his first blog post for new employer Time Out Chicago -- who I also quoted at length in my story about OWN for the St. Pete Times Thursday.

And feel free to weigh in on the comments section with your own observations.

Now that Oprah has her own cable channel, has OWN lived up to the hype?

[Last modified: Friday, January 7, 2011 8:44am]


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