the most important people in the world

The Oprah Winfrey Network Has Arrived, and People Basically Like It

Oprah Winfrey finally launched her cable channel, OWN, at noon on Saturday, three years and a reported $189 million after she first announced the venture. Soon to be screening in more than 80 million living rooms around the world, the network kicked off with a one-hour preview special, hosted by Oprah Winfrey herself, of course. The bitch-free network’s lineup of shows, thus far, includes:

Master Class, a series spotlighting prominent people like Diane Sawyer, Jay-Z, and Condoleezza Rice.
In the Bedroom With Dr. Laura Berman, a show providing counseling to couples who need to repair their sex lives.
Your OWN Show: Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star, a reality show on which contestants compete for a hosting gig of their own on OWN.
A reality series with Sarah Ferguson, duchess of York, as she seeks to rebuild her life.
Miracle Detectives, on which two investigators — one a believer, the other a scientist — explore seeming miracles.
The Gayle King Show, which is self-explanatory. And long in the making.
Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes, a show about The Oprah Winfrey Show’s final season.

That’s a lot of Oprah and things Oprah likes. So, what do people think so far?

The AP’s Frazier Moore found the kickoff a bit anticlimactic, but promising: “Oprah Winfrey’s network has begun not with a bang but with redeclared purpose … After years in the planning and months of hype, the moment of launch on Saturday was rather quiet … and free of glitz … A soft opening, aimed at whetting viewers’ appetites.” [AP via NYDN]

The New York Times’ Alessandra Stanley found the network almost ludicrously earnest: “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. At times, it seemed almost like a comical conceit, like those movies that pivot on the sudden disappearance of a basic pillar of life, Death Takes a Holiday or even The Invention of Lying. OWN is a place where cynicism takes a holiday and mockery hasn’t yet been invented.” Ultimately, she considers it “a gamble.” [ArtsBeat/NYT]

Salon’s Matt Zoller Seitz finds the whole thing a bit unsettling if ultimately enjoyable: “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.” However, he admitted: “It won me over.” [Salon via HR]

Gawker’s Adrian Chen challenges the notion that the network will encourage viewers to tone down their cynicism, expecting more back-patting: “Oprah’s famous friends [will] talk about how awesome they are. It’s sort of like an infomercial, but for a person.” He added: “Do miracles really exist? No, but that won’t stop OWN from having an entire show about the idiots who believe in them.” [Gawker]

IndieWire’s Caryn James said the fare — fluffy but smart — will appeal to true Oprah believers: “OWN displays a whiff of spirituality, a huge amount of life-style fluff and a surprising layer of substance.” James noted that “only die-hard Winfrey fans would like most of the program,” but: “Beneath the inspirational advice that often sounds like hot air, and the clean-up-your-room mom’s voice, Oprah has a bedrock belief in reason, intelligence and education. That’s what makes her so valuable and OWN so promising to the non-banshees among us.” [IndieWire via Mediaite]

The Oprah Winfrey Network Has Arrived, and People Basically Like It