Don’t count Oprah out just yet
For some years now, media observers have been predicting the decline and eventual closure of Oprah Winfrey’s OWN TV network. For a dodgy time there, it looked like the cynics were right, because Oprah was having a hard time turning her network’s new shows into popular viewing propositions.
For the past two TV seasons, however, some of OWN’s shows have been reaping acclaim and enthusiastic viewership, so the word’s out: Hey, guys, don’t count Oprah out just yet!
OWN’s improving stats and profits are being paced by two new shows, “Queen Sugar” and “Greenleaf.” Both productions are family drama series—proof positive to debunk cynics’ jibe that Oprah is good only at producing talk and reality TV programs.
“Queen Sugar” is directed by Ava DuVernay, who megged “Selma” to great acclaim. It’s about an LA denizen, played by Dawn-Lyen Gardner, who goes home to New Orleans, where her father’s sugar plantation is in trouble.
For its part, “Greenleaf” is about a black “megachurch” in Memphis dominated by the Greenleaf family, which is made up of supposedly spiritual people—who turn out to harbor “scandalous secrets and lies.”
Both series have hit a sweet spot with millions of viewers, because they vivify Winfrey’s avowed “media mission” to promote a more authentic and insightful appreciation of major issues that confront black Americans today.
Aside from its two hit shows, OWN has also successfully telecast Tyler Perry’s “The Haves and the Have Nots,” as well as “Oprah’s Next Chapter.” The network’s morning block of talk shows includes programs hosted by Dr. Phil, Rachael Ray and Nate Berkus, all Oprah proteges.
Elsewhere in media, Winfrey has also been busy making movies. In 2015, she starred as Annie Lee Cooper in “Selma,” where she first worked with director DuVernay. She liked the experience so much that she tapped DuVernay to “go TV” for the first time and meg “Queen Sugar.”
Oprah also played Gloria Gaines in Lee Daniels’ “The Butler.” Upcoming film projects include “The Untitled Richard Pryor Biopic,” “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” (title role) and “A Wrinkle In Time,” as Mrs. Which.
What about her personal life? She’s been “going really steady” with Stedman Graham for decades, and “reports” of an impending wedding periodically surface—but eventually turn out to be mere rumors.
And, what about politics? She’s been an influential supporter of Barack Obama then and Hillary Clinton now. There was a time when she was being “considered” for a VP slot, but Oprah obviously prefers to be a power behind the throne.
Besides, Oprah has more than enough to keep her busy! Her autobiography, “The Life You Want,” is slated to come out in 2017.