Monday, July 11, 2011

The problem with #OWN - The Oprah Winfrey Network


I like Oprah. I do. I'm not a squealing, OMG-ing, everything-she-recommends-I-must-try kind of fan but I respect her hustle, her reach and her general philosophies of reach one, teach one and first do no harm. There was a murky area there where I thought her show was a little too Oprah-centric. I also sent many a side-eye towards a lot of her book club selections (No love for a light-hearted romance?). There were definitely a few cringe-worthy moments from this final season (that Iyanla interview). But overall, Oprah is all right by me.

BougieMom retired in the late nineties and barring any appointments, she watched Oprah every single weekday up until the finale. I can't even tell you how many conversations she started with "Guess what happened on Oprah today?"

That's why I was excited to see what the Winfrey team could do with an entire channel. I watched quite a bit of OWN the first weekend and then popped in and out trying to find shows to love. It was hard to do. There were a lot of random reality shows, some psych-talk shows, a lot of Gayle. No shade to Gayle, she's just not Oprah.

Here's the problem: Not enough Oprah, too many random people I just don't care about. The Judds? Shania Twain? Chaz Bono? Sarah Ferguson? Tatum O'Neal? C'mon... seriously? I'm already not a fan of reality TV but reality TV about celebrities I never cared about?

The two best shows are Master Class and Behind the Scenes. By the way, did they ever show the Master Class on Sidney Poitier? He was in the original promo and then we never saw it. At any rate, Master Class was the smart idea of letting a personality tell their own story the way they wanted to tell it. Very well done. Maya Angelou's literally made me tear up. Behind the Scenes gives the viewer the back story for the goings-on at the Oprah Winfrey Show. But we're nearing the finale.

So the two best shows are done. Replacing them? A whole lotta random. A makeover show. A show about infidelity (Unfaithful - it's actually kind of interesting), talk show, documentary, talk show. 

The other problem I have with OWN - where are the stories for sistah girls? Playing The Color Purple every weekend doesn't count. 

Has anyone been watching OWN? What do you love? What would you change? Do share - who knows maybe someone will pay attention. BougieTales on OWN?

42 comments:

Michele said...

I like the documentaries by Lisa Ling.  Other than that?  Eh.  Unfortunately, I believe that OWN is leaving the sistah girl programming to VH1 and Bravo.

CorettaJG said...

Just back from my Stella & Dot Jewelry conference in San Francisco where both Oprah and Mrs. Obama were prominently featured in the inspiration video before the fashion show for the new BOLD collection.  Great clip of her in a 60 Minutes video being asked by Wallace what if the show is unsuccessful and her saying I believe it'll be successful but if it's not, I'm still all good.  I loved the Oprah Behind the Scenes series and the episodes I caught of the Master Class.  I agree on the rest, seems kind of random, and I cannot watch Gail talking on radio.

happinessisme said...

Oprah is not about the sistas. It's not her demographic. Yeah, some AA women like your mother do watch and love her, but they're not her bread and butter. White, middle class women are. I wouldn't hold my breathe for programming for or about us. 

Penny said...

I have seen some of the shows, and while I applaud Oprah for creating her own network, it is strange that she and her team did not seem to understand how content would be key to making her network succeed.  I heard Oprah say on more than one occasion that she wanted to elevate television, but then as you say (and right on target I might add) she puts on programs about "random people I don't care about."  You and me (and probably the majority of America) just don't care about those people either.   Sarah Ferguson, please send her back to England.  Shania Twain, the O'Neals????  She followed the reality television playbook-let's find people who have some name recognition that need a job and put them on tv.  

Penny said...

Dead @ "I cannot watch Gail talking on radio."  What's up with that microphone?

bkbisous said...

 I'm also a fan of Lisa Ling's show, Our America. From an interview she did (with Wendy Williams, no less), it seems that it was a project she approached earlier and optioned to OWN. Lisa Ling is always on point with her documentary work and bringing light to marginalized group issues.

I don' t know about  the "sistah girl programming" on VH1: I, for one, do not relate to Basketball Wives and Single Ladies. Bravo just seems geared to pulling in magpies, of which I'm sometimes guilty: am I missing their stuff that seems to be geared toward women of color, besides RHoAtlanta?

Jazzy Jazz said...

Yeah , not a fan of oprah. She is definitely not about black people period. Dr Phil, Dr Oz, Rachael Ray etc. Granny asked me one day about the  OWN network. She wanted to know what comes on there. My response- Oprah approved television. You can watch her , or one of her proteges. You will not be watching anything else. 

And um Gayle King - no comment. Well its almost as bad as watching Steve Harvey and crew talk on the radio

bashowell said...

I watched a few things on OWN.  Behind the Scenes was definitely the best one.  I also watched Your OWN Show and Shania Twain's show.  Unfaithful isn't bad, either.  As for sistah girl programming?  I don't really care.  That's not my thing, so that wouldn't affect my viewing habits one way or the other.

maureen said...

I'm Lady O stan, so this stings a tad bit. I agree with you, OWN can use a variety and I believe in the fall we might see  a variety of shows. I hope using your words "where are the stories for sistah girls" can  make it to OWN. I watched  master class series , behind the scenes and Lisa and Ling. I DVR the other shows just  to increase her viewership even though I do not watch them. (crazy huh? I know, but  I'm O's stan).
Chele,  I submitted your name and Paul Brunson on Oprah.com when they asked for  show ideas. Crossing  fingers we see you hosting some type of show or you being a "Shonda Rhimes" of OWN.

Reads4Pleasure said...

I love Our America, Behind the Scenes and Master Class as well.  I think the problem beyond that is Oprah created a network of what she wanted to see without realizing that that's not necessarily what her audience wants to see.  I don't know if her team did any research, opinion polls, etc. to determine what her audience cared about outside of Oprah herself, but with the ratings OWN is getting, I doubt it.

I've also questioned why she doesn't run her old shows since most of them are still very relevant today.  Turns out she sold syndication to CBS so she would need their permission.  She does hold syndication rights to Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz though, which is why their shows run on OWN.  I'm not a fan of either of them, but I would tune in for past Oprah shows for sure.

blackprofessor said...

Like you, I watched the first weekend in its' entirety.  I have definitely fallen off since then but I like Master Class and Behind the Scenes as well.  Master Class is excellent! 

What would I recommend? Given that I am a bibliophile, I would love to see a show centered around her book club where the host could thoroughly discuss the book selection with the author and/or audience. It would also be nice to have celebrities come on and discuss the books that changed their lives and why, which is nicely done in the O magazine.  I would also love to see a show following her girls as they graduate from her South African academy and matriculate in college, most of them in US universities. I was very moved by their individual stories and would love to keep up with them.

aisha oaktree1122 said...

Yeah No I'm good i couldn't stand the promo for the OWN network, nothing on there is new everything is pretty much the same as on regular tv so why even watch, she better come up with some good stuff soon.

angelasherell said...

I had no great expectations for OWN. Oprah was ready to retire.  She was only  looking to give her loyal staff some work going forward and maybe a bit or residual income.  On occasssion she may come in and do a few things but don't hold your breath.  Contrary to what she has said, it was never her  intention to labor over this.  She is ready to have some fun!

GammasWorld said...

Master Class needs to be on the regular and no, I didn't see the Sidney Poitier show either.  Behind The Scenes and Our America are really good.  Unfaithful I just caught last week for the first time and it was surprisingly interesting.  I don't want to watch it all the time but it's good to see couples who have worked through it but once you see one or two and know that intense therapy is necessary, do I really want to see more of who, what, why?   Anyhow I agree with Reads4Pleasure , it seems the research that was done on content was almost invalid by the time the shows were developed and the network premiered.  I've been watching Sarah and the O'Neals not because of who they are but because of their struggle with issues a lot of us common folk deal with.  

Now that The Oprah Show is over and she'll be dedicating herself full time to it, I think we'll see more consistency and quality.   One of Iyanla's protegees from Starting Over House announced that Iyanla will have a show on OWN, not sure when or what the format will be.  

I'm giving OWN some time as developing a network, producing new shows, buying rights to old ones, and  fine tuning the schedule is a huge undertaking.  Like I said, now that she'll be devoting herself full time to it, I think it will get better.  

Your girl "C" said...

I've been DVR'ng some of the shows too just so that OWN can get their numbers (but NOT the Judds, Sarah, O'Neals, etc. cause I don't want to encourage production of more shows of rich celebrities with problems).  However, I found out last week that if the DVR'd show isn't watched within 3 days, the numbers aren't included.  Also, if you skip through the commercials, it's not used because the advertisers only count it if the commericals are played.

Your girl "C" said...

I, too, have been a long-time Oprah fan.  I admire her for a lot of the work that she does and, seemingly, sticking to her principles.  There were some things about the Oprah Winfrey Show that I couldn't get with and just turned the channel those days (dieting shows, make-over shows, The Book Club choices, Tom Cruise, Jennifer Anniston, etc.).  No talk show can be all things to all people but she had enough interesting topics that kept me coming back.  

The OWN network clearly isn't working as planned and even Oprah said recently that she doesn't need market research to see what the problem is, all she has to do is look at it.  She has also agreed with her partner Discovery that she needs to be more involved in the programming.  I hope she understands that a topic suitable for a one-hour talk show just may not be interesting enough for a series.  I loved Master Class and really enjoy watching Behind the Scenes.  I'd like to see more shows about how people do things such as the O Magazine articles covering women who make career changes or start their own businesses.  A medical show covering only women's issues would be nice too.  Oprah says that she's going to be doing a prime time talk show 2 to 3 days a week.  That should be nice but I hope she doesn't lean too heavily on the celebrity-fawning or incest/abuse survival stories.

Grace said...

I was hoping OWN would have some original programming - a Different World like sitcom, a cutting edge drama... something!

thinklikeRiley said...

I watched Jay-Z's Master Class. #Boss
That's all I got.

keishabrown said...

i TOTALLY vote Bougietales on OWN
who would play DFKAN and his complete-opposite of bougie chick???
hmmm....

BlackButterfly said...

I like Oprah and the only shows I have really gravitated towards are the same as others have mentioned: Master Class, Our America and Behind the Scenes.  The first few weeks I watched but there was never anything more than the three shows that I really wanted to see again. 

I don't need or want the sister girl type shows like the degrading ones on television now.  But I am hoping that she will realize that she has to bring in some great
original programming and more diversity. 

MichelleG said...

 Oprah confused me with her refusal to look at moving cancelled ABC soap operas to OWN. The ratings for those "failing" shows beat anything that currently airs on OWN so from a business standpoint it makes no sense. Even if only half of the current viewers watch it would bring more eyes to her network which would buy them time with more advertising sold to keep network afloat (and if the soaps went back to the quality they used to have more viewers would return but that’s another post). I care more about Angie and Jessie than Sarah's constant whining about trying to survive as a commoner again....

OWN never hit the level of must see TV with me but I liked Master Class (outside of Oprah narrating it - its your network you don't have to be on every thing). They really need to air that Sidney Poitier episode (& throw in a Harry Belafonte one while they are at it) before OWN becomes a footnote in broadcast/media history.

SassyJJ said...

Not an Oprah fan, so I wasn't up in arms about her having her OWN.  Once I saw the lineup and the same shows on repeat all.dang.day, it was a wrap for me.

The only way I will watch is if they show an UNEDITED version of Women of Brewster Place (anyone with the dvd knows the tragedy).  That is all.

All Honey said...

Knowing you, I have to assume that by "sistah girl" programming, you were expecting some flavor of television that black women give a damn about. Yeah, well - we'll just wait until you start producing television shows.

Leo the Yardie Chick said...

I hope she hurries up and finds her footing, fast. Of course, I'm assuming that she's still in the teething stage of her new network. If she isn't? Welp!

Jasmine Girl said...

I was thinking the same thing, this can't be what she was planning to unleash on the world right? This is still early days, right?!

GrownAzzMan said...

Hate I missed that one. I will have to check to see if they will run it again.

rozb said...

Every time I get ready to give OWN a chance, The Color Purple is showing. I have the DVDs and have seen this movie enough to know Every. Single. Line. iCan't with the programming right now - old Dr. Phil shows, Gayle King (whatever it is she does), and other shows not really geared toward what I want to watch on a random evening.

Start showing some forensic crime shows and some non-reality or non-advice TV stuff and I might be able to go there.

Pure Choco said...

Please and thank you. I would watch BougieLand TV all day!

Deb B said...

I felt like Oprah lost touch a while ago. But her staff should know better.

daisy said...

I'm afraid I quit Oprah a few years back.

Singlelif said...

I'll just put this little twist on a line from the Color Purple, which seems to be OWN's flagship show/movie.."OWN, until you do right by me, everything I watch will be on another channel".

Kim (✿◠‿◠) said...

I'm a big Oprah fan,  but I agree OWN needs a little tweaking. And I
never  use the word tweak because I hate that word.  I do like the
shows Unfaithful , Gayle King's Show , Behind the Scenes and the Master
Class series, but not impressed otherwise. I don't want to see Dr. Phil
reruns as he lost a little credibility with me awhile ago and  not
interested in dysfunctional celebrity reality shows either.  She said she had a  five year plan to make the network successful, but she would do it in three. I think people were expecting to see more of her on the network. 

Anita Brown said...

LOL

Only the Tall said...

No sister girl type shows for me either, so degrading, but she really needs to do something interesting and please get some diversity.

Bee Bee McGee said...

Cosign, Cosign, and a lil mo' co-sign. I'm glad it's not just me. I really enjoyed the Oprah show, especially in it's last season, so I couldn't wait to see what the network had to offer. Now I find myself watching some of the random shows and thinking....."Hmmm, it's not possible to "Cancel" a network, is it? - BORING.  Like you, I am not interested in the Judds, Shania Twain, etc, and Dr. Phil Re-runs. C'mon now. I did like that show about the young women in prison, but that one is done too.  I wanna support you Oprah, but help a sista out....

Bee Bee McGee said...

It may be on, "On-Demand" if you have that servce available to you.

Nadette said...

cosign! I still haven't watched Master Class (its on my dvr, I'll get to it) but really, other than the documentaries on the channel, it's a dud. and I'm really sad about that.

MotownMs said...

I have been away for a while and only had time to read your blog posts and related commentary.  Thought I would jump in here though…
 
I have taped then recorded Oprah shows since about day one…thought there was a decline in substance the last 5-6 years.  Hung in overall...just 'cuz.
 
Tried OWN and …as many have said…liked Master Class and Behind the Scenes…period.  Read that sista-girl, OWN CEO, Christina Norman was fired in May by the board that oversees the network 'cuz "… of dissatisfaction with the ratings."   O did not have the time to keep an eye out due to last season's demands.  Recently on Twitter O claimed that her time off was shortened due to having to get back and deal with OWN…so I guess we will have to wait and see.
 
I thought OWN would be a venue for more innovative television…perhaps independent films by up-and-coming screenwriters and directors…well-scripted series…more book discussion as someone else mentioned…expose us to more international lifestyle stories…give a little something to her middle-America-fan-base (while I tune out...:-)…take the chances cable can where regular network television does not...I can dream can't I?...sigh...  

Singlelif said...

Yep, I heard the same thing about Christina Norman being forced out at OWN due to poor ratings.  Though I hate to see a "Sista" lose her job, she had to have realized at some point that the people who are "Oprah" stans are not the same audience as those on MTV, from where Ms. Norman came, and where she was the former President. I hope she has a good financial planner, because being fired by Oprah can't possibly be a morale booster.

Evansaw said...

I don't think that we are her target demograpic.  I think if she wants this network to survive, somebody at Harpo better find some diversity in programming, PDQ!  If you go back to early episodes of Oprah, you will see that her audience was made up of people from many different backgrounds and races.  Look at epidsodes from the last few years and see who is sitting there in the  Harpo studio  towards the end, and you have the answer.  When she first came to Chicago, it was good to see a sista 'working it out'; the first few years were  glorified "Jenny Jones moments" at times, but we hung in there with her.  Then came the "Coffee Klatches" and they were always in places like "Park Forest" or Lombard; Oprah never came to the South Side of Chicago with her coffee get-togethers. I noticed less of us talked about what happened on Oprah that day once she gained national attention, and her format changed.  I no longer identified with her, and neither did my friends.  I will always admire her for what she has accomplished, but Iquestion her motives for this network and where someone like me fits into the audience she is trying to reach.......

Oregonsistah said...

Ther wii be a johntra volta show on losing is on and laying

Adoption based on her sister

MyDatingHangovers said...

m a little late but still wanted to add my two cents.  Overall?  I'm not impressed either with the OWN and figure it's a little too generic for my liking.  I did, however, catch the latest episode of Unfaithful which was interesting.  Quite the twist and a little endearing hearing about a couple overcoming infidelity thought I was thinking "oh hell no" at the same time. 
Programming is for the audience she's targeting which isn't specific and a little too bland for my liking.
 
I'm with you Chele, ID Channel all the way!

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