Opinion Brief

Rating Oprah's OWN network

The Oprah Winfrey Network launched on January 1. Can the Queen of Daytime TV become even more influential or is she setting herself up to fail?

The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) began broadcasting on January 1, with a slate of programming including reruns of shows hosted by Dr. Phil McGraw, Dr. Mehmet Oz, and Rachael Ray — and the promise of new reality TV series following Ryan and Tatum O'Neal and the former Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson. Oprah herself will appear in a 25-episode fly-on-the-wall reality TV series, "Behind the Scenes: The Oprah Show Final Season." Does Oprah's golden touch ensure OWN will be a success — or has the Queen of Daytime TV overestimated her appeal? (See a behind-the-scenes look at Oprah)

We've seen this show before: Color me "disappointed," says Jennifer E. Mabry in The Root. Oprah's slate of reality TV and makeover programs just adds to "an already glutted market of voyeuristic dreck." Was it really too much to hope that Oprah might use her star power to "improve the television landscape" with the kind of "high-quality, black-themed fare" her film company, Harpo Films, has made? What a "missed opportunity."
"Oprah's OWN missed opportunity"

It needs more of Oprah's fire: "Something feels missing from OWN," says Joanna Weiss at the Boston Globe, and that's "a sense of purpose sufficient to justify the ambition." If only Oprah would use her network to showcase her hard-as-nails edge. This network needs the controlled outrage Oprah displayed when interviewing John Edwards' mistress Rielle Hunter, or when "dressing down" fake memoirist James Frey. Oprah "wants to be a guru, but she's better, and more vital, as a conscience." 
"Calling on Power Oprah"

There are diamonds within the fluff: Yes, there's a "huge amount of lifestyle fluff" on OWN, says Caryn James at IndieWire, but it's accompanied by "a surprising layer of substance." A look at the forthcoming schedule reveals a "real commitment to serious non-fiction shows and documentary films." Critics should hold their fire until they've seen what's about to come. Oprah's "bedrock belief in reason, intelligence, and education" runs through the core of OWN.
"Oprah's OWN network, where fluffy meets smart"

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