Thursday, 8 December 2011

The Oprah army looks for a new general

Oprah Winfrey was in damage control mode yesterday.

She took to the Doctor Oz Show to pimp her network and her new show, Oprah's New Chapter, in an attempt to remind viewers that she's still out there.

The OWN Network has been in free fall despite Oprah's attempts to shore it up with her own five-week show, Oprah's Lifeclass as well as a flashy talk show hosted by Rosie O'Donnell. In January, Oprah's set to launch The Next Chapter which will take the superstar around the globe to interwiew stars and newsmakers in their own countries and in their own lavish homes.

But Oprah's fairy dust doesn't seem to be working this time.

She's chewed through at least three top executives, as well as any staff, according to insiders, who question her vision. She's added reruns of her 25th anniversary show in her old time slot competing against the anointed Doctor Oz to see if she can get any traction. And she's called on all her celebrity friends, people like Julia Roberts and The Judds, to help her out. Nothing seems to work.

The problem is so bad that even Oprah's bestie, Gayle King, is abandoning ship to take on an ill-fated journey on the good ship CBS Morning.

What's left to try?

Even Oprah's own shows have proved to be dogs. Oprah's Lifeclass brought in dismal ratings every night, with low six figures in viewership and only a smattering of loyal fans sticking around for her webcasts.

It seems the Oprah army is looking for a new general.

The blame must rest with Oprah herself who has fashioned herself into some kind of new age guru, eyes brimming, hands aloft, out to bless all the poor, indigent and afflicted from her golden thrown.

Her Mantras -- this is what I know, if you know better you do better, live in the moment -- are ringing hollow to the people who loved her for car give aways and makeover shows. She is not a prophet, she is a chat show host, and people are getting tired of her ministry.

The writing has been on the tablets. Oprah just didn't listen to her inner voice.

A couple of years ago, Oprah's ratings began to plummet after she began to preach from her 4 o'clock pulpit. Her show had to be reinvented to bring back Tom Hanks and John Travolta, Tim Dunn and Paula Deene. Yet she didn't seem to learn the lesson.

People want to be entertained, not preached at.

Daytime talk is not as good since Oprah left. Anderson Cooper is mediocre and widely uneven in his offerings, and it's pretty clear Anderson isn't all that committed, revealing this week that he's accepted a part-time gig on 60 Minutes along with his other show on CNN, Anderson 360.

Ellen is always a fan favorite and Doctor Oz has done a nice job hoovering up all the housewive in Oprah's old time slot. There are many others out there sponging up the old Oprah viewers, yet nobody really has opted for OWN.

What will happen to the queen of daytime?

Discovery, the parent company, seems to be in it for the long haul, as are some loyal advertisers. But the company can only bleed money for so long before the drones say sayonara to the Queen Bee.

Needless to say, we shouldn't worry about Oprah.

She is a steel magnolia with enough money to buy a small African country and educate all its girls. Perhaps she should concentrate on getting her fancy man, Barack Obama re-elected.

In any case, you have to give her credit for trying something new.

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