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Journal of a Couch Potato: A Day with the Oprah Winfrey Network

by Bob Sassone, posted Jan 3rd 2011 7:00PM
OWNLike most men, I have a love/hate relationship with Oprah. Nothing against her, it's just that when I watch her show, I have the feeling that I shouldn't be. I don't have addictions, I don't fawn over celebrities; the only secret I keep is that I sometimes watch 'Oprah.'

On New Year's Day, while other men were watching football games or nursing their hangovers, I watched The Oprah Winfrey Network. And I kept a diary of what I saw. No, a journal. Journal sounds more manly.

11: 58AM: There's a countdown clock in the corner, counting down the seconds until The Oprah Winfrey Network launches. Not sure what will happen at noon though. Fireworks? Balloons? Suze Orman popping out of a cake?

Noon: Balloons!

Oprah12:01PM: The first show on OWN is a one-hour preview show hosted by Oprah herself. Not every show is going to debut today, so this will be a quick guide to what we can expect to see soon.

12:06: I just found a weird bug crawling on the notepad I'm writing on. Oprah's house probably doesn't have any bugs. And even if it does, I bet she hires special bug wranglers to capture them and set them free on one of the many islands she owns, where they can live healthy, productive lives and be the very best bugs they can be!

12:08: My suspicions are confirmed: this whole lineup consists of reality shows and self-help. This is going to be a long day.

12:10: Oh good, another reality competition show. We're lacking these on TV. But this one, a battle to see who gets to host a show on OWN called 'Your OWN Show,' has Dr. Phil actually swearing at a contestant! So there's that.

12:13: Sarah Ferguson is getting her OWN show too. Oprah says "I asked Sarah if she could document her personal journey back to herself." Translation: "Wanna be on a reality show?"

12:15: Dr. Phil, Suze Orman and Dr. Oz -- Oprah's "Super Friends" -- are the ones entrusted with the task of helping Fergie get back to, um, herself. It seems like this network is going to focus a lot on rich, famous celebrities who don't have enough self-esteem.

12:17: Only 17 minutes into OWN and I already feel like this channel isn't for me. Any chance she'll start showing reruns of 'NewsRadio'?

12:18: A sneak preview for 'Ryan and Tatum: The O'Neals.' That's right, another celebrity reality show. Or, at Ryan puts it, "We're revealing the next chapter in our lives." And arguing for money. I wonder if he'll talk about the time he tried to hit on Tatum at Farrah's funeral?

12:19: Hey, it's yet another celebreality show! Shocking. This one features The Judds. Oprah says "The Judds have been through some stuff. And they're not afraid to talk about it!" Mother of God.

12:26: Next up, Oprah's non-gay friend Gayle, who will bring her Sirius XM radio show to OWN. It will air five days a week, live, which means that it's just a matter of time before a friend of Gayle's Sirius XM co-hort Howard Stern calls in and yells "Baba-booey! Baba-booey!"

12:30: A woman has just uttered the line "He hasn't touched my genitals in weeks." This is either a preview for a new show about sex and relationships or a documentary about the worst gynecologist in the world.

12:32: 'Christina Ferrare's Big Bowl of Love.' OK, this is a show that I might be able to get into -- I like to eat -- but the title is kinda scary. Even the cooking shows on this network have to have a word like "love " in the title? I fear there's going to be an episode where Ferrare talks to a bowl of soup and tells it how disappointed she is in their relationship.

12:38: A preview for Lisa Ling's new show, 'Pedophiles, Drug Addicts and Crossdressers.' Actually, it looks like it's called 'Lisa Ling's America,' but the other title is more accurate.

12:39: Ling's show includes a scene of a man (I'm only guessing there) injecting something into his backside. THIS IS JOURNALISM PEOPLE!

12:46: Hold onto your seats: OWN is going to have a show about people who have food addictions and the experts who try to get them in shape. OF COURSE.

12:49: Hey, it's 'Breaking Down the Bars,' a show about women in prison. Yeah!

Oh, wait, it's not that type of show.

1:00: So here's the first show on OWN and it's called 'Kidnapped by the Kids,' which sounds like a movie on Lifetime where something terrible happens to a family. But it's actually about kids who decide to kidnap one of their parents who put work before family. (I would really think about changing the title.)

1:02: These two kids are upset that their dad is gone on business trips every Monday through Thursday -- even on the days he's home, he's always on his computer -- and their plan is to kidnap him and force him to take them camping.

1:11: Kids ask woman at the airline counter to lie to their dad that his plane has been canceled because they want to kidnap him. TSA, help!

Enough Already1:13: Commercial for 'Enough Already with Peter Walsh,' a show about a guy who helps people get their homes organized and neat. I'm irritated (enough) already. All of his advice seems to be "put things in boxes."

1:18: The kids have taken dad camping. I guess mom's at home?

1:20: They're camping just like everyone camp -- with a television camera crew following their every move.

1:21: Finally the dad says what everyone watching is thinking: it's not a sin to have to work for a living. I'm intrigued to see what happens at the end of the show. Will the dad go back to his old ways? Will he stick with the plan and end up losing his job? That could lead to the creation of another OWN show, 'Job Hunt,' a reality show where we follow the people who got fired on 'Kidnapped by the Kids.'

1:30: Commercial for 'Master Class,' a show where we learn about life from a celebrity. Talking about Diane Sawyer, Oprah says, "She is a goddess. And who doesn't like a goddess"? I have to admit she's right. Goddesses are awesome.

1:31: It's funny that the dad can't have a Blackberry but he's being followed by a TV crew that has them, along with computers. I wonder if he borrowed a cell phone from the cameraman?

1:32: I'm waiting for dad to say, "Hey kids, do you like have a nice home to live in and a nice car and nice clothes? Then daddy has to work." Maybe there could be a spin-off where dad takes away the kids video games and TV so they learn how to spend more time with their parents.

1:59: Dad says in a letter to his family that he can't take it anymore and he's going to live with the other family he has in another state. Just kidding! He has changed his ways. He gets a new job closer to home so he can be with his family more.

2:00: 'Master Class.' This episode focuses on Jay-Z. If Diane Sawyer is a goddess, is he a god?

2:12: I can't watch this ... switching over to Food Network until 3 to watch 'Chopped.' Hey, they're cooking with eggplant and Coke!

2:59: At the end of 'Master Class,' Oprah says "You won't become another Jay Z, but you will become the best YOU can be." It's rather odd for her to assume I won't become another Jay Z. Why not? If I were to become a rap star, I'd use my initials and call myself Total B.S.

3:00: 'Enough Already with Peter Walsh.' Will a weekly show about a guy helping people organize their owns become tedious and redundant?

3:01: I quickly have my answer. Yes, a show like that would become tedious and redundant, so they have to make the show about saving marriages and relationships and getting to the real reason why people are so messy.

3:03: Oh, and death. This first episode has Walsh making sure a man sees what his house looks like neat before he dies. I'm not kidding.

3:06: This show should actually be called 'Peter Walsh, Organizer Psychologist.' This isn't just about making sure you have hangers for all of your clothing, it's about getting to emotional truths and telling your family how you feel. Lots of scenes with Walsh sitting in a chair alone and talking directly to the camera, set to moody music. This seems to be the formula for OWN.

3:11: Walsh: "It's hard to talk about the future when the man you're talking about might only have a few months to live." That would be a funny, bizarre line if it wasn't so sad.

3:13: Walsh could never help me. This family -- and the families I see on a lot of these cleaning/organization shows -- has plenty of room in their house to store stuff, they just haven't done it or don't want to. I live in an apartment and don't have any place to put all of my stuff. Walsh's advice to me would just be "uh, throw that out."

3:23: Commercial for LUVs diapers, with babies are in a contest where the winner is the one with the most-filled diaper. You'll never see this ad on 'Monday Night Football.'

3:30: OK, this is just depressing. Walsh is asking the dying man what he wants to throw away (um, everything?). Maybe they just picked the most dramatic story for the premiere and later episodes will feature more wacky scenes of stuff falling out of a closet and people who have saved every issue of Penthouse since 1984.

3:50: If they took out all of the emotional/relationship stuff from this show, it would be about 12 minutes long. And better.

3:57: Note to Peter Walsh: putting a lit candle inside a closed closet probably isn't a good idea, even if it does make the closet smell good.

Searching For...4:00: 'Searching For...' This features a "professional genealogist," so I thought it would be a scripted drama, a cross between 'Medium' and 'Cold Case.' But it's a reality show, where a woman helps people get in touch with lost family members.

5:00: 'Miracle Detectives.' This focuses on two investigators who try to get to the bottom of mysterious happenings. It's the reality show version of 'The X-Files.' The announcer actually describes the show this way: "one a skeptic ... one a believer ... in search of truth." Except Mulder and Scully investigated aliens and monsters, which are more believable than what these two investigate -- angels and miracles and the Virgin Mary suddenly appearing on a hamburger bun at McDonald's.

6:00-8:00: The network is taking a break and so am I.

8:00: 'Oprah: Behind the Scenes.' An in-depth look at the final season. Admittedly, some of this is interesting: what Oprah does when she gets up in the morning, the meetings with staff, how the staff puts the show together. But it's done the same way all reality shows are: moody music and the "will they or won't they" cliffhangers before commercials.

TV can't do straight documentaries anymore, they all have to have that reality tone.

This episode focuses on the season premiere, where Oprah surprised her audience with a trip to Australia. Oh my God, will the super fans on route to the show actually get there in time?!? (Answer: Yes.)

9:00: OK, that's it, I can't take it anymore -- nine hours is enough. I've been OWNed. There's a preview of 'In the Bedroom with Laura Berman' coming up at 11, but I'm not going to watch it. From the title I'm going to guess it's about sex. Which probably explains the quote I heard at 12:30.

Summary: If OWN is supposed to be inspirational and educational and enlightening, then why do I feel so depressed and disappointed?

I know that 96 percent of what is on OWN isn't for my demographic. But it's also the genre, the reality format, and the tone that is so dull. It's the type of lineup that makes your heart sink a little. If you have 12 reality/self-help shows in a row that are supposed to be emotional and inspirational, then it all becomes spiritual wallpaper. Maybe OWN is something you should just dip into once in a while.

To be fair, this is just the first day, so maybe in the coming months the network will expand to include different shows. Anything ... please.

Oprah's All-StarsP.S. The next night had 'Oprah's All-Stars,' where Dr. Phil, Suze Orman and Dr. Oz (what, no Nate Berkus?) answer questions from an audience and viewers. The first question was for Dr. Oz, and one of the many people asking the question was a woman who said she was keeping a "video poop journal."


What Do You Think of OWN So Far?
I love it! I'm thinking about keeping a video poop journal too!15 (6.0%)
It was good. It has several shows I'd watch again.63 (25.4%)
I might watch one show. Maybe. If I can remember to watch it.73 (29.4%)
I'd rather watch a network filled with 'Joanie Loves Chachi' reruns.97 (39.1%)

[Follow Bob on Twitter.]

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Richard Ott

"I love it! I'm thinking about keeping a video poop
journal, too."? Who writes these multiple choice

January 04 2011 at 11:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You bring up a great point, why isn't there simply a station that runs nothing but classic sitcoms?
Here's my lineup:
NewsRadio (mentioning that so early on in your post gave me more respect for your opinion)
Lucky Louie
That '70s Show
Murphy Brown
Spin City
Red Dwarf
Ned and Stacey
Less Than Perfect
My Name is Earl
Major Dad
Married...With Children
Better Off Ted
Arrested Development
The Drew Carey Show
The Critic
Grounded For Life
Fresh Prince
Just Shoot Me
Everybody Hates Chris
3rd Rock From The Sun
30 Rock
There are just a handful of some entertaining (if sometimes stupid) sitcoms from the 80s, 90s and 00s that could EASILY make up 24/7/365 programming for a network. I'd watch that!

OWN is simply the culmination of a woman's massive ego expanding beyond the borders of a single show. Even the name evokes some kind of personal triumph instead of an idea. Oprah really only cares about her fame/celebrity and her "good deeds" are simply calculated PR moves to enhance her public image.

January 04 2011 at 11:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Dan's comment
H Gibson

I agree with you 110%.

January 10 2011 at 10:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I was thrilled to find out my basic cable subscription doesn't carry OWN. I never watched her on broadcast television, so this isn't a big stretch. However, I'd probably have to subscribe to the blog Bob would write about the network :)

January 04 2011 at 7:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is awesome! Please do more stuff like this.

January 03 2011 at 9:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Great, funny synopsis of a channel which I will *definitely* avoid.

January 03 2011 at 7:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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