Don’t Be Desperate, Oprah: 5 Television Programs That Could Save OWN

June 13, 2012  |  
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So I just read that Oprah Winfrey is doing another Oprah Presents The Next Chapter special in which she will sit down with the Kardashian-Jenner family, including Lamar Odom and Scott Disick, for an interview about…well…why are the Kardashians famous again?

Oh I forgot, sex tape, then reality shows and then Kanye West. Got it.

Anyway, this interview is on the heels of another sit down she did last week with 50 Cent, who once was in a very public, and pretty much one-sided, beef with the former queen of daytime talk. Yeah, that 50 Cent, who maliciously dogged Vivica A. Fox publicly and once paid another rapper’s baby mother to make a sex tape as revenge. The same rapper that regularly calls women b*****s and ho*s and named his female dog Oprah. Yet and still he got to sit on a plush sofa and pontificate about his “next chapter” with his former nemesis. I smell desperation. And it sure is funky.

Some of y’all may think I’m being too harsh on Oprah.  After all, it is not easy building a brand and a network from the ground up. But truth be told, Oprah has always been a shero of mine since way back when she was rocking the Patti LaBelle-hair and the dresses with the extra prominent shoulder pads. I can honestly say that I consider Oprah one of my close girlfriends – in my head of course. Therefore as a good girlfriend, I’m going to tell you and her the truth: Stop interviewing people and get some damn TV shows.  I know that your claim to fame has always been your ability to get exclusive interviews and get the famous and infamous to open up about their lives, but no one is trying to watch that for 24 hours straight.  It’s like you took that one trick pony and beat it until it was a dead horse. Time to diversifying the lineup and actually put forward some scripted or non-scripted programming. Programming that doesn’t have the words “Oprah Presents…” or “Master Class…” or “Life Lessons…” in the titles – because if I wanted to be educated and inspired, I’d turn off the television and go read a book.

SO in an effort to keep you from scraping the bottom of the celebrity barrel again for interviews in the future, I have five programming suggestions, which I feel could go a long way not only in raising the ratings on your fledgling network but in an effort to keep people tuned in:

Women, Women and More Women:  Television is all about “Girl Power” these days. And why shouldn’t it be, considering that women of all ages spend more time in front of the television than their male counterparts.  I guess they don’t call it the boob tube for nothing. Imagine the ratings boost if Oprah filled time slots with sitcoms and dramas featuring strong and multifaceted female leads? I’m talking about modern day versions of “Golden Girls,” “Designing Women,” “Living Single,” “Girlfriends,” “Kate & Alley” and “Cagney & Lacey.”  Ooh, I’m getting all Spice Girl “zigazig ah” with just the thought.

 

Revive the Reruns: And I’m not just talking about old episodes of the “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” I’m saying; bring back “The Sally Jesse Raphael Show,” “The Ricki Lake Show,” Richard Bey, Geraldo and even Jenny Jones. We miss the heyday of talk shows when tabloid talk, featuring stories about infidelity, questionable paternity, Satanic cults, race riots and flat out foolishness was king. Sure, we know that most of these folks were gunning to knock you off your throne as the Queen of Talk. But look who had the last laugh? You did Oprah. And you could have it every day, from 5-7 p.m. as we laugh together at the ridiculous levels these shows went to try to take your title. Plus, can you imagine a 24-marathon of old school “Donahue” on a raining Labor Day weekend?  “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” on TNT, who?

Oprah Movie of the Week: Remember back in the ’80s, when the family would crowd around the television to watch the ABC Movie of the Week? You know, the made-for-TV mini-series that featured dramatic re-tellings of con-artist bigamists, crazy mistresses and cheating abusive husbands who murdered their wives and blamed it on a black guy?  You should totally rip off that idea.  I mean, it’s not like they are using it anymore. Little known fact: ABC Movie of the Week helped establish the network as a legitimate competitor to rivals CBS and NBC. Now imagine what a salacious tale ripped from the headlines can do for OWN’s ratings? I can see it now: Larenz Tate and Ted McGinley starring in the Hunger Pains: the True Life Story of the Face-eating Zombie Man. What? Too soon?

 

Thursday Nights: Back in the 90s, must-see television for Black folks was Thursday nights. Leading the charge was Fox’s all-black TV show line-up, which included “Martin,” “In Living Color,” “Living Single” and “New York Undercover.”  However, other start-up stations like UPN and the WB (now combined to create the CW) followed suit with a block of their own black shows, albeit on different nights of the week. However, Thursdays began to basically symbolize the only time when we got to see us continuously on the small screen. Oprah, it’s time that you step back from the rainbow coalition of programming and diversify your staff with folks that can give you fresh new shows with unique characters and, more importantly, black people. Matter of fact, there are a number of web-series, written and directed by talented black folks right now on YouTube, who I’m sure would appreciate a hand up. Then once you are established, you can go back to creating programming for the suburban soccer mom crowd. Hey, It worked for UPN, the WB, and Fox at one time or another, surely it can work for OWN.

 

Extreme Something-Wars: Okay, like it or not, reality television shows have become a fixture in our television viewing homes. Even as I previously stated that I was never going to watch another reality show, VH1 hit me with the extended commercial for the upcoming Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta and I’m like,Oh Snap! Back on the hot mess bandwagon again.” Now I’m not suggesting you go for the sleazy, cat fighting approach to reality TV. Instead, why not create a bunch of reality competition series?  I know I’m no expert but from what I have observed from my own research (i.e. laying around in old sweatpants on the couch, eating Lean Pockets and watching television shows on Netflix), Americans are all about two things: “extreme” and “war.” “Cake Wars,” “Extreme Home Makeover,” “Whale Wars,” “Extreme Couponing,” “Weddings Wars,” “Extreme Cheapskates”…basically anything that has a Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome feel to it. I know you probably believe these genres of shows are beneath you, but may I remind you that you are about to interview the Kardashians? If you need an idea to get started, here is one for free: Extreme Race Wars, a one-hour competitive show where two racial and/or ethnic groups must make it through a grueling and challenging obstacle course to determine once and for all, which race is superior – and for cash prizes of course.  The way the country is going, this show would be a ratings bonanza…sadly.

Honorable Mentions: Just to make sure I was on the right path, I posed this question to folks in my Facebook network and they agree: no more interviewing celebrities. They also offered up several suggestions of their own for programming: cartoons for kids of color; a show about how to become Oprah; some kind of reality show about homeless people starting businesses; soap operas and a real life version of the World Series of Dice. Don’t ask. But hey, these are your potential viewers. Gives you something to think about, right?

What can Oprah do to boost the ratings for her network? What programs should she try?

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