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OWN: First impressions!

Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah Winfrey. Credit: Getty Images

  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.


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