There's nothing less fair or (even perhaps) less accurate than snap judgements, but we all make 'em, and I've made my own on OWN.
Head to the jump, dear reader, for a quick down-and-dirty read on my initial thoughts on OWN - and I do reserve the right to change any of these at a moment's notice or when evidence is presented to the contrary...
- First impression, there is an awful awful lot of what we in the trade and you in your trade probably as well call "repurposed material." I notice for example that "Mystery Diagnosis" is here - this migrated over from Discovery Health, from which this new channel rose phoenix-like. I notice too "Trading Places" has propped up the mornings - and will do so until, I suppose, Gayle King's show arrives shortly. Plus, there are "Dr. Phil" repeats everywhere, and even the occassional dusty flick ("An Officer and a Gentleman.") Now, of course, much of this stuff is placeholder material until other shows are ready. But I'm still left with that first read that OWN is not exactly its own network yet but a patchwork of others. That kind of muddles its indentiy, which leads to my second snap judgement...
- What is OWN exactly? We do this - the human mind, that is: Look for comparisons, or similarities between one new thing to an established old thing as a way of better understanding it, and I keep thinking OWN is very much like TLC, or maybe HGTV. It's still in a formative stage, but my snap judgement here is that OWN doesn't yet know exactly what it is just yet, or will one day become.
- Good production values. They are in fact quite good. There is no cheesy look here, no sir, which - you'll correctly note - is a basic condition for any launch, but you'd be surprised at the number of launches I've seen over the years that look like a hunk of moldy camembert. Visually, OWN leaves a good first impression.
- Some of the shows have promise, some clearly do not. "Master Class" strikes me as pretentious twaddle. Now, I'm a long and loyal admirer of Diane Sawyer, but her hour - or at least the portion I watched - was ridiculous, self-serving, and unintentionally hy-larious. Diane Sawyer recalling that she told Saddam in an interview, "we give people their own show if they criticize the president' [and] and he looked at me quizzically?" Or: Di's recollections of mandolin playing in her golden youth? (Saddam would have been quizzical about that too, I'd bet.) Diane needed someone to ask her pointed specific
questions - preferably O herself - and not prattle on about her own glorious self, as glorious as it may be. "MC" is a key show for this Oprah newbie because it is supposed to clarify OWN's reason-for-being, which is that this is a network that tells you how to live your best life. But we can't all be Jay Z or Di or even mandolin-players. These shows have long and windy wind-ups: They need to get straight to the point, and get there in the first two minutes.
- I actually think the Laura Berman sex-therapy show kinda works, even though there have been so many of those over the years, and Cristina Ferrare's "Big Bowl of Love" is fine too - pretty much what CF has done on "Oprah" over the years. Oh yes, and how could I forget - "Behind the Scenes." This is the best darned thing on OWN by far: Imagine: we get to see a pre-made-up O teasing the fur of her bichon frise, driving to work in her Bentley, musing on the meaning of life, and the meaning of Oprah all in the same soundbite! I could dine on this show for years. (Why, O could base the whole darned network on it.)
- Peter Walsh, self-help expert, house decluttering master extraordinaire? I wonder if he could turn up at my place some day next week. Just a couple of hours. I would be eternally grateful.