Monday, January 3, 2011

For Three Days Running Is Oprah's OWN

Dr. Laura Berman, above left, will help couples work through their sexual dysfunctions on "In the Bedroom with Dr. Laura." Photos from

ON the menu is Cat Corea’s Salmon Potato Plate, Asian Salmon Loaf and Affogato (whatever that is). Hovering moms and hands-off moms get an earful from Dr. Phil. Enough already, Peter Walsh tells a hording mom in no uncertain terms. And Dr. Laura Berman has prescriptions for a husband and wife not getting enough lovin'.

This mélange constitutes synopses of shows premiering today on OWN aka Oprah Winfrey Network.

At the moment the ball dropped in Times Square, then millions kissed and toasted the New Year, another monumental – but more low-key – event was taking place on cable. Midnight/1 Jan. 2011 East Coast time also welcomed in the dawn of OWN – three years in gestation and delivered a little later than expected. On Time Warner Cable in New York City, OWN airs on Channel 115 where Discovery Health Channel once took up residence until it went dark (low ratings). The first program to air – a very wise start considering that the country was distracted – was “Countdown to OWN.” For the first 12 hours of OWN’s life, the highlights show was the only program airing on the network.

Dr. Oz, Suze Orman and Dr. Phil share the same stage and pearls of wisdom on “Oprah’s All Stars.”

By noon (all times are Eastern standard time), when some may have risen for brunch or a hangover cure, OWN had moved on to “Oprah's Guide to OWN: The New Oprah Winfrey Network,” with the lady herself acting as host and viewer guide to OWN shows. At 1 p.m., a traveling-consultant father is on the road four days a week. The three days he’s home he’s on the computer doing more work. He has no time for his wife, no time for his two children. But the kids are sad as heck and are not going to take it anymore. It’s a sneak peak of “Kidnapped by the Kids,” a weekly show featuring children who basically have an intervention with their absentee parent(s). It will be added to the regular schedule later in the year.

The first day of OWN ended with another sneak peak, “In the Bedroom with Dr. Laura Berman,” which aired at 11 p.m.” (See video: Each week the sex therapist/researcher, etc., will try to help couples having difficulties in the bedroom. Her initial patients are a couple whose marriage is severely strained, owing to the wife’s long-held beliefs that sex is dirty. She also suffers from guilt and shame over a past abortion. Dr. Laura proposes several remedies. To the wife, she hands a diagram of a vagina and a mirror. Dr. Laura orders the latter to take a look and to show her husband, too. The husband’s assignment is to peruse a handbook of sexual positions that Dr. Laura hands him. From the vast menu he is to choose a couple to suggest to his wife.

Nancy O’Dell and Carson Kressley (shown with Oprah) host "Your OWN Show."

Not so surprisingly, “In the Bedroom with Dr. Laura Berman” has received some of the most comments so far. “I would like to purchase a copy of the book with positions that was featured during the show a couple of nights ago. Can I get a title and author? Thank you,” one viewer wrote this morning.

A physician-viewer took great solace from watching. “UTTERLY SURREAL HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE SEX PROBLEMS! Im [sic] a DAMN newlywed and my husband and I have NO sex life. I feel even more to blame because Im [sic] a doctor and I cant [sic] even help myself in this situation,” she writes. “We live in a city with relatively high profile careers and cant [sic] seek help close by for fear of others knowing our embarrassing [sic], private struggle. I think we communicate well, but we lack solutions or guidance on how to overcome our problem … The first episode of "In the Bedroom" was eyeopening [sic] for my husband and I [sic]. It made us feel not so shameful and isolated in our constant battle.”

Jay-Z talks candidly about his life on "Oprah Presents Master Class."

Considering the content, a 10 p.m. timeslot makes sense. “In the Bedroom with Dr. Laura Berman” has its official premiere tonight with a couple that loses the thrill from their sex life when the husband becomes Mr. Mom.

This afternoon, one of OWN’s cooking shows comes in the form of “Cristina Ferrare's Big Bowl of Love.” CF has made tasty lemonade out of her life since her failed marriage to the late auto executive John DeLorean. One of her many talents is cooking, and she aims to strip away the intimidation factor for viewers. Each weekday she cooks with a special guest. First up is Iron Chef Cat. It airs at 3:30 p.m. (See video:

“Dr. Phil,” is so big that his show will air on OWN three times each weekday. At 8 this morning, guests shared helpful information around saving money on vacations and clothes. The aforementioned smothering/aloof moms are in the chair at 7 p.m. On the last show at 11 p.m., Dr. Phil chides/admonishes couples to get to know each other before they get married and some to do so after the fact.

Also catch Dr. Phil on “Oprah’s All Stars” along with Suze Orman and Dr. Mehmet Oz. Shot before a live audience, the freewheeling four-part advice show premiered last night at 8. The trio appeared on the stage together and dispensed counsel to both the audience and callers, including a 52-year-old virgin. Regis Philbin got answers about his acid reflux; a woman dismayed that her twin is not repaying a loan hung up a little more empowered, and Vanessa Williams was the recipient of a simple strategy to get her 10-year-old daughter out of her bed. The remaining episodes of the series air at 8 p.m. on Sundays 9, 16 and 23 Jan.

Peter Walsh helps horders get a handle on their clutter in "Enough Already! with Peter Walsh."

Sandwiched somewhere between the second Dr. Phil show and before Dr. Laura tonight is Dr. Organization in “Enough Already! with Peter Walsh.” His first case is a mother whose hording habit may be endangering her 15 month-old son. Each week, Oprah’s favorite organizer helps some very put-upon souls get rid of the clutter. It airs at 8 p.m. (See video:

Though OWN is a typical cable network in that it offers films, as well as a mix of daily, weekly, reality, variety and public affairs programs/series with frequent repeats, it is actually an extension of the Oprah show. Many of the show’s contributors/experts/correspondents are in the fold, and the focus is clearly on helping people live their best lives Now. "I wanted to take the ideals of great television that we've established on the 'Oprah' show and bring them to you through a variety of new shows 24/7," she says at the beginning of “Oprah's Guide to OWN.”

The brand that is Oprah has come a long way since the mid-‘90s when she officially announced that she was done with the trash-talk format after a brief and unappetizing experiment. She left Ricki, Maury, Jerry, Sally and Geraldo to battle it out in the muck. Loftier subjects were on her brain. In “Oprah's Guide to OWN,” she asserts, "Every minute of this network has been hand-selected by me for you, the viewers."

Dr. Maya Angelou is a future guest on "Oprah Presents Master Class."

What would a Harpo, Inc. production be without Oprah BFF, Gayle King? It is unlikely to be, and viewers can tune in at 10 a.m. on Monday, 10 Jan. for the premiere of “The Gayle King Show.” Airing weekdays, the live show moves from radio to TV. That’s the lone change; otherwise, GK still offers her two cents on current events and pop culture. In the nonscripted category later this year, Ryan and Tatum (“Ryan and Tatum: The O’Neals”), Naomi and Wynonna (“The Judds”), and Duchess Fergie (“Finding Sarah”) and others enter the world of reality TV.

At the moment, non-OWN programming takes the form of films: “An Officer and a Gentleman,” “When a Man Loves a Woman,” “Doc Hollywood,” “The Bridges of Madison County,” “The Color Purple.”

Two other OWN shows that look like winners are “Oprah Presents Master Class” and “Your OWN Show: Oprah's Search for the Next TV Star.” “Master Class is much like “Inside the Actors Studio,” except that it features prominent people in various fields. It had a soft debut Saturday at 2 p.m. with Jay-Z waxing serious about his rise to fame and the importance of integrity. The official premiere came Sunday night at 10, in its regular timeslot. “ABC World News” anchor Diane Sawyer reflected on her career and discussed her marriage to director Mike Nichols. Upcoming “Master Class” guests are Maya Angelou, Condoleezza Rice and Sidney Poitier. (See video:

"The Gayle King Show" debuts on 10 Jan.

In a “Your OWN Show” voiceover Oprah declares, “Someone’s life is about to change.” Hosted by Carson Kressley and Nancy O’Dell and from executive producer Mark Burnett, “Your OWN Show” is in a format very similar to “The Next Food Network Star.” Ten contestants undergo a baptism by fire to see whether they possess the mettle to have a show on OWN - their OWN show. The group gets tips from Oprah all-stars - Suze, Dr. Phil and others (Arsenio Hall, for instance) who have been there. It will air on Fridays and premieres at 9 p.m. on 7 Jan. (See video:

Oprah does not re-invent the wheel, nor is that the intention. OWN, a joint venture with Discovery Communication, doesn’t have any programming that can’t be found elsewhere. Is it better than what's out there? What does OWN bring to the table? After a few days it is clear that OWN programming is engaging and above average; a better assessment, however, can be made after a few months. What the programming has that sets it apart is the imprimatur of Oprah. Midas has his touch and Oprah has her effect. But is this enough for L.A.-based OWN to succeed in an oversaturated marketplace? In a thousand-channel universe, isn’t another cable channel – let alone a network – simply redundant?

Ultimately, viewers decide OWN's success, but a CNBC “Street Signs” commentator put it well in remarks last week, “I won’t bet against Oprah.”

Learn more about OWN, its programs and where it airs in your area at

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