Oprah: "she sure can talk"

When Oprah Winfrey first announced the creation of OWN, she revealed she had once written in her journal “that one day I would create a television network, as I always felt my show was just the beginning of what the future could hold.”

Well, three years and $168 million later, we have now seen the future, and it is — extremely disappointing. Not just in the number of viewers who pulled the escape hatch after the first few days, but why they are bailing.

OWN promises to recycle 5,000 hour of the Oprah Winfrey Show starting this September.

Who wants to watch more recycling than you’ll find at a plastic bottle processing center.

I’m not certain how this has happened given the OWN brain trust with Oprah as chairman, the amazing Tom Freston as top advisor, and the awesome Christina Norman, the CEO. The bottom line: OWN is a stodgy old bore.

Even worse, while they were forgetting Oprah’s own recipe for success, a quiet little Columbus Dispatch newspaper reporter went instantly viral with his story of Ted Williams, the homeless man with the golden voice.

Talk about dream fulfillment.  Today Oprah told Entertainment Tonight she was thinking of ways to fold Ted Williams into OWN.  Really? Doesn’t he have enough benefactors on his bandwagon.   Instead, why not hire that unsung Columbus Dispatch reporter and give him a show to find the other jewels of humanity who are still living on the street or in makeshift tents?

Thursday, Oprah met with members of the TV Critics Association where some  suggested she had actually staged a filibuster to avoid addressing real issues of OWN. Here are some of the questions tv critics didn’t have an opportunity to ask:

Did it really take $100 million dollars and two-and-a-half years to come up with a morning show hosted by your best friend, Gayle and an afternoon show with Rosie — one in which you will also be a part-owner.

Does OWN also stand for the richest woman in the history of television owning a piece of everyone else’s shows as well?  Do you think that might be a deterrent to fresher talent who might find that exploitive?

Why do we feel like we’re moving back in time, instead of forward,  into the next chapter with you. Could it be the 1978 graphics and set?

And master class? While we share your deep admiration for Maya Angelou, Jay-Z and Diane Sawyer, if they tell us again what makes them so special and curious! we will scream.  Can you please tell us something new?

Why not listen to what the critics have to say?  Sure, just like at the White House briefings, some reporters will always posture.  But most are there because they love their beat and care deeply when certain decisions have unintended consequences.

They are also the folks who know what the collapse of OWN viewership in week 2 might really signal. While OWN’s premiere averaged 1 million primetime viewers last weekend, Sunday dropped to 822,000. Monday fell to 394,000, followed by Tuesday hitting 315,000. Wednesday was up a bit.

In the network’s target of women 25-54, the only true predictor of the future revenue stream, OWN went from an opening night rating of 0.6 to a 0.2 at the start of the week, not a stellar start.  Again, it is early days, but given the lead time, financial backing and brain power, higher launch expectations were not unreasonable.


Thanks to Christine Becker, Associate Professor of Film, Television, and Theatre at University of Notre Dame, here are some of the TV critics more notable tweets, or tveets as she calls them.

Even factoring in what a cynical bunch they are, the tweets between the critics who couldn’t get a word in edgewise, tell quite a tale.

BillBriouxTV Bill Brioux
Oprah puts the “Ow” in OWN. Today’s OWN press conferences puts the Zzz in TCA
greghernandez Greg Hernandez
Oprah watches commercials on OWN and says things like “Thank you Chevrolet! Thanks Nissan!” #OWN #tca
mikeylikestv Michael O’Connell
Oprah… here… brain… melting. http://yfrog.com/gyq63bj
BastardMachine Tim Goodman
“I see myself as a messenger for a message that is greater than myself. And the message is, you can, you can, you can.” Can I leave?
HitFixDaniel Daniel Fienberg
From what I can tell, Oprah has talked for 20 minutes straight about why we aren’t getting cars. So wise… #oprah
BillBriouxTV Bill Brioux
Oprah sure likes to talk
elgray Ellen Gray
Day 2 of the inspirational Oprah filibuster: Anyone planning to order pizza? #tca
AmyKNelson: the question?
sepinwall Alan Sepinwall
Who knows anymore? Something about dreams? Filibuster’s been going on a while
amen RT @NatalieAbrams: Oprah is filibustering herself #tca
elgray Ellen Gray
Mistake we made here: Not asking to be Oprah’s guests. Sometimes they get to talk. #tca
rcatlin Roger Catlin
You can watch OWN all day, Oprah says, and “there isn’t going to be one thing that causes you not to sleep at night.” So it’s a sleep aid?
BillBriouxTV Bill Brioux
Oprah’s been talking so long Jerry’s Kids are getting a cut
BastardMachine Tim Goodman
Still going. This bill will not get passed!
EricIGN Eric Goldman
Oprah’s story has gone from touching to insanely long. Did she rehearse a one-woman show before coming here? #TCA
BastardMachine Tim Goodman
Oprah just set a TCA record, is in fact still setting it, for longest answer to single question. About dreams, or something.
KateAurthur Kate Aurthur
I find it hard to understand wtf #Oprah is talking about at this press conference. Can someone ask her about “The Secret” or something? #TCA
sepinwall Alan Sepinwall
Reporter asks Oprah a question she says she’s never been asked before. She pauses a moment, then begins 10-minutes-and-counting monologue.
Zap2itRick Rick Porter
We’re not realy talking about cable television so much anymore.
BillBriouxTV Bill Brioux
Four newspapers folded since Oprah started talking
KateAurthur Kate Aurthur
We now know the truth: Without commercial breaks, #Oprah would never stop talking. Has she taken a breath? #hostagesituation
BastardMachine Tim Goodman
Oh, for the love of God, YOU’VE GOT YOUR OWN NETWORK. Let us ask a question!
sepinwall Alan Sepinwall
Confirmed: the #oprahfilibuster lasted 18 minutes and 15 seconds.
danielletbd Danielle Turchiano
Also @Oprah announced the one thing she can’t get someone to do is go to the gynecologist for her. I bet half the audience would volunteer.
BastardMachine Tim Goodman
Oprah just allowed another question. I just used my Oprah pen to stab myself in the ear.
JBFlint Joe Flint
Discovery ID just announced new mystery show — figuring out what question Oprah was just asked.
BastardMachine Tim Goodman
“That’s where I am. Loving the recognition of who I am….” Oh, that’s it. Where’s the bong?
EricIGN Eric Goldman
Oprah is talking about how “self-awareness” and how that doesn’t mean she’s in love with herself. Self-aware… like Skynet. #TCA
sepinwall Alan Sepinwall
Oprah just alluded to a story she won’t be telling us. I am confused.
HitFixDaniel Daniel Fienberg
“There’s where I am. Loving the recognition of who I am.” -Oprah. Figure that one out, kids. #oprah
tvoti Todd VanDerWerff
Oprah says, “I am not in love with myself.” @HitFixDaniel does a spit take a couple seats away.
KateAurthur Kate Aurthur
Christina Norman: “Last question.” Oprah: “I don’t want to go.”#hotelcalifornia
BastardMachine Tim Goodman
Tip: If you’re ever with Oprah and she starts talking, pauses, then says, “long story…” – just shoot yourself in the eye.
sepinwall Alan Sepinwall
Uh-oh. I think she’s got a second filibuster in her. #oprahlikestotalk
@sepinwall @dloehr @BastardMachine Oprah’s idolizing audiences have not prepared her for sarcastic golf claps.

That last tveet may have hit on something.
Maybe all those idolizing audiences have taken a toll on the woman who may forever rank as the most important daytime tv host ever, the one that changed the world for the bullies and the bullied, the sexually assaulted and their predators, the discarded, the disenfranchised, the desperate and the desolate.  She empowered millions, enriched our lives with new books, old classics and a catalog of great music.
It is impossible to overstate Oprah Winfrey’s contributions of the past 25 years. But perhaps all those years of adoring audiences have thrown something out of whack in her.  Now, at least for this brief moment, it seems like the right time, at least a good time to talk less and listen more.