OWN Orders Four Series; Oprah to Interview Whitney Houston's Mom

Generating Fresh Ink
Joe Pugliese

The OWN network has been churning out relevant topics, and viewers, as of late. 3.5 million tuned in to Oprah's Next Chapter to see Oprah mourn with Whitney Houston's family. 1.6 million watched her debate marriage and faith with Pastor Joel Osteen. 2.5 million watched Rihanna open up about her relationship with R&B star Chris Brown

Oprah Winfrey’s OWN is expanding its programming slate once again.

The Discovery-owned cable network announced four new original series being added to its schedule later this year, including series centered on comedienne Kym Whitley, a mobster-turned-dog groomer and the transformation of an underpeforming New Orleans high school. The new entries will join Tyler Perry’s previously announced hour-long drama The Haves and the Have Nots and half-hour comedy Love Thy Neighbor, which are set to premiere May 29.

The news comes as the fledgling network rounded out 2013 with double-digit year-over-year ratings gains in all key demos, including total viewers (up 30 percent) and women 25 to 54 (up 32 percent). “I’m not doing the hula yet …but compared to a year ago, it feels like a sigh of relief,” Winfrey recently told The Hollywood Reporter of what could be the beginning of OWN's turnaround. 

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Speaking to those programming additions, OWN president Sheri Salata noted: “All of these new programs reflect the best of the human spirit. From the funny to the dramatic, we are always shooting for to-the-bone real. Whether it’s Oprah’s in-depth conversations with celebrities and newsmakers, or our new scripted programming from Tyler Perry, the people and characters in these shows share experiences and life stories in relatable and authentic ways.”

Looking ahead, Winfrey will continue to rely on her personal brand and her marquee relationships, serving up new episodes of Oprah's Next Chapter featuring Drew Barrymore from her home in California, LL Cool J with his family at their home in Los Angeles and Whitney Houston’s mother Cissy Houston one year after her daughter’s untimely passing.

What's more, the second season of Oprah's Master Class will showcase still more household names, including Alicia Keys, Lenny Kravitz and Stevie NicksDiahann Carroll and Susan Sarandon, music mogul Berry Gordy, supermodel Cindy Crawford and journalist Tom Brokaw. New episodes of Oprah: Where Are They Now? will focus on Apprentice alum Omarosa, rapper Bow Wow, Octomom Nadya Suleman, Dennis Rodman, Gennifer Flowers, Heidi Fleiss and Columbine Families. Both programs will return in March.

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Here’s a look at OWN's new entries:

Blackboard Wars

The Discovery Studios-produced docu-series centers on the dramatic transformation of New Orleans’ John McDonogh High School, one of the most dangerous and under-performing high schools in the country, where more than half of its students fail to graduate. The show, which will premiere in March, will go behind the scenes with education maverick Steve Barr and no-nonsense principal Dr. Marvin Thompson as they embark on an unpredictable mission to reinvent and revive the struggling school.  

Golden Sisters

The real-life comedy chronicles the hilarious adventures of Mary, Josie & Teresa, three sisters who shot to fame after a web video of the women watching a celebrity sex tape went viral.  With Mary in her eighties and her twin sisters only slightly younger, the three raucous senior citizens share their outrageous opinions on everything from sex and dating to celebrities and pop culture. The series hails from LMNO Productions.

Raising Whitley

The tentatively titled Raising Whitley is a Pilgrim Studios-produced docu-series that centers on actress and comedienne Kym Whitley and her group of friends – whom she refers to as "The Village” – as they attempt to do something none of them have ever done before: raise a baby together. The latter comes about when Whitley's mentee in the Big Sister program flees the maternity ward without her baby, leaving only Whitley's contact information to raise the child.


The Nerd TV-helmed Dogfellas revolves around James “Head” Guiliani, a former street enforcer for the mafia and one of John Gotti’s most trusted men, whose life-changing encounter with a stray dog inspired him to open Brooklyn’s top dog grooming parlor.  In addition to pampering canines, Head --who is in a constant battle to pay the bills-- rescues dogs. Between his fiery wife and self-absorbed staff, he has his hands full.

Email: Lacey.Rose@THR.com; Twitter: @LaceyVRose