Oprah Winfrey's New Network: What the Critics Think
Oprah Winfrey launched her new cable channel at noon Saturday. So what do the critics have to say about it, now that it's all of a day old?
The Associated Press' Frazier Moore commented on the "rather quiet" launch of OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network after more than two years of planning and "months of hype."
Adding that the network kicked off with a Winfrey-hosted one-hour preview special that was "free of glitz," Moore wrote, "The strategy seemed that of a soft opening, aimed at whetting viewers' appetites so they regularly come back and sample the network's expanding menu of new shows as they roll out." [Related: Oprah Winfrey on why she "had a lot of anxiety" about launching a network]
Meanwhile, the New York Times' Alessandra Stanley called the channel a "no cynicism zone."
The unveiling, Stanley wrote, "was most striking for what it lacked: Nowhere in that opening gush of feel-good highlight reels, self-improvement plans, spiritual quests, aha! moments, celebrity master classes and people finding their truths and living their own best lives was there a snicker of malice or a hint of raillery."
Stanley went on to write that "OWN is a place where cynicism takes a holiday and mockery hasn’t yet been invented."
Caryn James wrote on IndieWire.com that OWN "displays a whiff of spirituality, a huge amount of life-style fluff and a surprising layer of substance."
James wrote that only die-hard Winfrey fans would like most of the programs that air on the network, which ranges from shows on cooking and how to unclutter your home to celebrity-themed series starring Sarah Ferguson and Shania Twain. But she had praise for Oprah Presents Master Class, which features accomplished people including Jay-Z and Diane Sawyer reflecting on how they achieved success.
One of the more negative reviews came from Jennifer Mabry in a critique on the Root, an online publication that targets a black audience. Mabry wrote that she could sum up her feelings in one word: "disappointed."
Winfrey "seems content to follow the new television model of programming that exploded in the wake of the 2008 Hollywood writers' strike: Find anyone with a heartbeat and a willingness to have cameras follow them during their ordinary day-to-day life, and voilà -- we've got ourselves a TV show!" Mabry wrote.
She added that this seemed to be a "missed opportunity," arguing that the network should instead air original scripted programming targeted to "upwardly mobile, upper-middle-class black folk."
Matt Zoller Seitz offered up a rather snarky review on Salon.com that was interspersed with declarations about his hangover- (and OWN-?) induced headache.
"One of the more disquieting aspects ... is the pervasive sense (inevitable, I suppose) that this cable network is not just a programming venture and a brand extension, but a living monument to its creator's power -- and a celebration of her willingness to use that power as a force for good," he wrote. "We won't just watch OWN; we will gaze upon it with awe and affection and marvel at the sweet magnificence of its founder."
OWN, a joint venture between Winfrey and Discovery Communications, replaced Discovery Health Channel on cable and satellite systems and is available in 85 million homes.