The network regrouped and attacked prime time with shows like Married with Children and The Tracey Ullman Show. They added one show each week for the next few weeks. Fox struggled along but now, after 16 years, it’s legitimate in the eyes of the viewing public. However, it’s still the butt of many jokes because of its gang of failed programs.
So why is it that we—myself included—expect Oprah to accomplish with OWN in just a few months what it took Rupert Murdoch years to do with Fox?
On March 28, I wrote a post about Oprah’s obvious problems with OWN, but after watching the first five minutes of Oprah Builds a Network part one, which aired on July 8 on OWN, the media mogul’s honesty and candidness set me straight.
“No one will ever understand what it took to do that last year… and while at the same time trying to build a network…” she explained. “I can honestly say that I wasn’t committed to the network because I was committed to [The Oprah Winfrey Show].”
Oprah’s name precedes her, and that often makes us forget that she’s human, just like us. One person making the leap from producing a one-hour television show to a 24-hour network is seemingly impossible effort. Her admissions during this show were the first we’d heard her utter about how tough this feat has been to pull off—even for her. “In this particular instance, being Oprah was a great asset and a detriment because it raised the bar and expectation for this little network beyond anything that I was capable of doing on my own,” she said.
She went on to say that she and her team were nowhere near ready to launch OWN, but media hype and public expectation propelled them forward. Oprah sounded as if she regretted launching with such a bang and not being able to build slowly and see her vision come to fruition.
“I wanted to move forward with the network in a way that would be progressive and that would be thoughtful and that would be innovative and that would be inspiring,” Oprah said. “That was my vision. None of that happened.”
At a dinner party, Lorne Michaels, writer and producer of Saturday Night Live, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and 30 Rock fame, put things in perspective a bit for her.
“This thing you’ve taken on is huge. It’s big,” he said to her. “And nobody wants to see you sashay from the set of The Oprah Winfrey Show into this new business and everything go okay. You’re going to have to pay your dues. You’re going to have to learn the hard way. And you’re going to have to use the word mother*$ker a couple of times.”
Michaels also advised her to physically position herself on or somewhere very close to the network to ensure her vision is executed properly.
Here I am trying to run a little company and I’m judging Oprah for launching an entire television network. And for that, I’m sorry. She’s encountered programming hiccups and Twitter gaffes along the way, but what’s important to note about Oprah is that she keeps going. That gives me motivation to keep pushing along with my miniature endeavor in comparison.
Set your DVR to catch the replay of Oprah Builds a Network parts one and two on Sunday, July 22 from 6-8 p.m.