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Why Oprah's 'Next Chapter' must be a hit

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In "Oprah's Next Chapter" Oprah interviews Stephen Tyler, at his lake home in Lake Sunapee, NH. (September 21 2011) Credit: Discovery/

THE SHOW "Oprah's Next Chapter"

WHEN | WHERE Sunday at 9 p.m. on OWN

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT Because OWN -- and the person it's named after -- need a hit. Like yesterday.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Oprah Winfrey interviews people, but not just stars like Steven Tyler, who is featured in Sunday's opener. OWN says "real people, newsmakers, celebrities and thought leaders" also will engage in "conversations" with Winfrey as well, including chef Paula Deen, a Hasidic family in Brooklyn and members of a transcendental meditation community in Iowa.

MY SAY What will Oprah's next chapter be if "Oprah's Next Chapter" flops? Will she look deep into her soul, or consult with Deepak Chopra, or maybe call up Eckhart Tolle -- O fans know she's an Eckhart evangelist -- who will tell her to close her eyes and notice the space between the thoughts, or whatever it is Eckhart tells her to do.

This is stuff, after all, that she's done on her various shows for the almost 1-year-old network anyway. Or will O finally just face the hard, cold, sweaty truth. OWN hasn't worked, and may never work. Now what? There is a real do-or-die sense attached to this newcomer -- so much so that OWN refused to send out a screener for fear that churlish critics would use lines like "there is a real do-or-die sense attached to this newcomer."

Who knows? It could be a grand Oprah-esque success. But the obverse is a better bet. What's the problem here? The answer is staring Oprah and partner Discovery Communications right square in the face. O herself has even hinted at it over the past year, saying how much she misses her audience, and how she's going to take her other underviewed series, "Lifeclass," on the road to get some of that old audience love back.

Yes, yes, yes. She needs to relaunch her daily talk show on OWN. It's the network's last lifeline, although it should not be called "Oprah's Lifeline," catchy as the title may be. She's a talk-show genius. Why waste her talents on coal-walking with Tony Robbins? (Seriously. A future "Next Chapter" edition.) Get the audience back. Get the love back. Especially get deep-pocketed Discovery's love back.

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