Just when she thought she was out, they pulled her back in. Oprah is (somewhat reluctantly, it seems) going on camera for a show on her new cable channel, but she's leaving daytime and "getting untethered from the chairs"!
It's rather strong language for a press release. But the backstory here was always about Oprah's burnout over doing a daily show and how much she would replicate that highly successful formula on her cable channel after she stepped away from broadcast. As New York magazine reported recently,
Ever since the OWN deal was announced, Oprah had been coy about how much she would appear on the new channel and what she would do with The Oprah Winfrey Show. [Discovery CEO David] Zaslav, who had played it cool at first, now wanted as much of Oprah as he could get. The analogy he started using privately was that Discovery getting Oprah Winfrey without The Oprah Winfrey Show was like getting the NFL without the games.
Here, apparently, is the compromise: Oprah's Next Chapter, a primetime show in which Oprah travels around the world interviewing interesting people. Will it have the same magnetic pull as MacKenzie Phillips tell-alls and couch-jumping? Maybe with Christiane Amanpour moving to inside-the-Beltway "palaver" there's an opening for the kind of international coverage Americans usually ignore.
Oprah will also do (or "present," leaving open how much she'll actually appear) a one-hour show that is a master class with the likes of Jay-Z, Bono, and Condi Rice. Other shows in the announced lineup, debuting next January, are a Shania Twain show, and a reality show produced by Survivor's Mark Burnett that is rather low on the originality scale: "YOUR OWN SHOW: OPRAH'S SEARCH FOR THE NEXT TV STAR." Yeah, smart move to mark that one as "(working title)."
In interviews with The Wall Street Journal, both Oprah and her CEO, Christina Norman, brought up spinach:
The hard thing for us internally as we talk about these themes has been that they're not spinach," [Norman] said. "The job is to crack open these great ideas and make them accessible to everyone, and make them entertaining."
Ms. Winfrey echoed that idea, saying, "If it's going to be spinach, it needs a little truffle salt."
Now we'll have to wait and see who's eating. Or, um, watching.
Oprah To Announce New Evening Show [WSJ]
The O In Network [NYM]
The Oprah Winfrey Network Unveils Original Programming [PR Newswire]