Rosie O'Donnell’s recent appearance in LA at the Television Critics Association U.S. TV networks' fall presentations was a big win for the comedian, and for OWN founder Oprah Winfrey.
"It's a huge, huge stamp of approval. It's almost like being knighted, to have her say she wanted me to do this for her," said O’Donnell in reference to her new boss. "I still get nervous when I get her phone calls." It’s a mutual admiration society, said Winfrey, who commented, "She could have gone to any of the big broadcast networks. But she chose to take her talent to OWN."
The Rosie Show, O'Donnell's new talk show on OWN, will revamp her old talk show for the average woman entering her fifties, inviting one guest per show to address news-driven subjects. What it will not be: a vehicle for stars to promote a project.
"It's not going to be your average show where three celebrities come on promoting something and you'll see them on Letterman and Regis and all those other shows," said O’Donnell.
Nor will it be heavy on product promotion, as was her previous show where she became known for giveaways.
O'Donnell told critics she felt marketing and product placement became more important on her first show than actually being honest about the products she loved herself: "We're going to bring it back a little bit, so you are going to get a little gift if you come to my show, but it's not going to be something huge." So no "everybody gets a car!" moment, as Winfrey made famous on her just-wrapped 25-year run on daytime television.
O'Donnell cited NBC throwing Conan O’Brien “under a bus” on The Tonight Show as influencing her choice of a cable startup (OWN) versus pursuing a big network, commenting that “my desire to attach to a major corporation that had just taken 15 years of service and treated it as if it was nothing was a huge factor in me not signing” with a major network.
OWN's goal for bringing Rosie's personal brand — who has been keeping ties with fans via video blogging on her website and with her radio show on Sirius XM — is to help turn around its fortunes, as it's been struggling to gain footing as a cable brand since going live in January. The strategy: The Rosie Show will air weeknights at 7 p.m. as a lead-in to "repackaged" clips from Oprah’s syndicated talk show at 8 p.m.
Winfrey surprised TV critics, reporters and bloggers when she showed up last Friday to introduce O’Donnell, and to pitch her repackaged program, OWN Your Life: The Oprah Class, which debuts in October in the 8 p.m. slot. For that series, around 5,000 episodes of syndicated Oprah shows will be edited into “classes” with new intros by Oprah.
“Years ago, there was a story in USA Today about The World’s Biggest Classroom. It was one of a few articles I’ve saved over the years and I put it literally on my Vision Board. Because I wanted to embrace the idea of creating The World’s Biggest Classroom,” said Winfrey, adding that The Oprah Class will “teach people, how to live their best lives,” and “magnify and deepen the potential of that library.”
The Rosie + Oprah combo, bringing together two powerhouse brands — both passionate, provocative, honest to a fault — in daytime television for the first time, could prove potent. Winfrey retired her show at the top of her game, while O’Donnell worked ratings magic during her time on ABC's The View in 2006, sparking a rise in the double digits, as well as success with her original talk show which ran from 1996 to 2002.
Now, Winfrey is betting big-time that her personal (and Rosie's) magic will draw loyal viewers.
Adding to Winfrey’s current challenges, she’s also being sued for trademark infringement over usage of the acronym OYP, short for “Own Your Power,” by Simone Kelly-Brown and Own Your Power Communications, Inc.
The plaintiffs claim they originated the acronym and the motivational concept that people can “live their best life” if they believe that “anything you want in life is attainable,” and solidified their claim by petitioning the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to obtain exclusive ownership of the term “Own Your Power.”
A Harpo spokesperson issued this statement: “Harpo has not been served and we have no information about what allegations are being made.”
Winfrey, meanwhile, received some good news today — she will receive an honorary Oscar for her humanitarian work, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced today.