In a new post for Clutch Magazine I write how Oprah's OWN network is failing because it's still centered on the guru and not on the larger themes of what a full-fledged network created by the guru should be. People didn't want to see more Oprah, necessarily, they wanted to see what Oprah would actually do with a network. And what they expected was magic, not an unfocused muddle. People wanted Oprah to go big, or go back to basic television. Otherwise, how could she justify such a move?
If Oprah could create a morning news show, what kind of morning show would she have created? Would she have hired TJ Holmes away from CNN instead of BET? Or would she have tried to woo Soledad O’Brien who just started a new morning show there now? If she could create a true crime documentary block, or a news magazine program a la “60 Minutes,” would she have hired the ballsy Lisa Ling to run it? Or could it have been a platform for Ann Curry before she finally was promoted to host of Today at NBC?
If Oprah could create scripted dramas and sitcoms, would she work with “Game” and “Girlfriends” creator Mara Brock Akil? Or would she look to her friend and mentee Tyler Perry? Would she work with director Lee Daniels? Or would she reach out to “Grey’s Anatomy” creator Shonda Rhimes for show ideas? Would she call on veterans of TV producing and writing like Susan Fales-Hill or a film director like Kasi Lemmons? Or would she seek out new talent? And what kind of shows had Oprah wished she could always watch? We already have an idea of what fiction interested her. There were so many books she loved that were ripe for made-for-TV movies and TV shows. She could continue to make writer’s dreams come true by moving from the books to the visuals of television.
The reason why I thought so big for Oprah is because unlike other producers or upstart networks with no name, the Winfrey name opens every door. She could have anyone on her network when she first launched it and they would have relished at the opportunity. Her shine is so bright, who wouldn’t have wanted a little bit of that light on them? Who was going to tell Oprah no? If Oprah asked Dave Chappelle to come back and host a late night talk show, would he say no? She’s probably the only person he’d come out of semi-hiding for.