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Oprah Winfrey, the media mogul with the Midas touch, launched the Oprah Winfrey Network on Saturday. Viewers tuning into the 24-hour cable network will see behind-the-scenes footage from The Oprah Winfrey Show's final season, couples seeking advice on how to improve their sex lives, children confronting workaholic parents, and contestants vying to host their own talk show, among other programs.

What are the critics saying?

  • At OWN, Fluffy Meets Smart, states Caryn James at IndieWire: "If you're not a die-hard Oprah fan, if you wouldn't jump, squeal and wail like a banshee if someone gave you a Kindle or even a car, you can skip most of the programs. They are derivative, with an Oprah spin." But "along with this fluffernutter of a schedule," James adds, "comes a real commitment to serious non-fiction shows and documentary films" like Oprah Presents Master Class, which features celebrities like Jay-Z and Diane Sawyer discussing their ups and downs on the way to stardom.
  • There Is Nothing on Cable Like It, maintains Dan Abrams at Mediaite: "It doesn't celebrate, nor even focus much on the superficiality that can often drive cable ratings. No, this is a place for real people of all shapes, sizes and colors to watch others achieve realistic goals."
  • Sadly, 'Empathetic Oprah' Trumps 'Power Oprah,' laments Joanna Weiss at The Boston Globe:

[OWN is] inspirational and affecting, brain candy for people affluent enough to worry about self-actualization. Oprah believes that people are good, and if she wants to turn our TVs into vehicles for self-help, that's certainly her right. It was easy to be cynical about her book club, too, but she got people to read.

And yet something feels missing from OWN--a sense of purpose sufficient to justify the ambition ... The show we really need is something along the lines of "Oprah Attacks" ... What if she could dress down Tiger Woods? Tony Hayward? Jesse James? The senators who killed the Dream Act? TV news sometimes tries outrage, but it often comes across as false or forced. Jon Stewart can help get a bill passed, but he can't bear the burden alone.

  • I'm Disappointed, says Jennifer E. Mabry at The Root. Winfrey should improve today's voyeuristic television "by being ambitious, adventurous and creative," she says, perhaps by producing "original scripted programming aimed primarily at upwardly mobile, upper-middle-class black folk." Instead, "she seems content to follow the new television model of programming that exploded in the wake of the 2008 Hollywood writers' strike: Find anyone with a heartbeat and a willingness to have cameras follow them during their ordinary day-to-day life, and voilĂ --we've got ourselves a TV show!"
  • OWN Is a Celebration of Oprah's Power ... And Yet I Love It! admits Matt Zoller Seitz at Salon, who spent a hungover New Year's Day watching the network's programs. You don't just watch OWN, he explains; you "gaze upon it with awe and affection, and marvel at the sweet magnificence of its founder." But his snark soon subsides:

By the time the network segues into its 3 PM/2 PM central time preview--"Enough Already!", starring the bizarrely soul-patched anti-clutter crusader Peter Walsh--I have succumbed to Stockholm syndrome and am making lists of clutter to remove from my own home and resolving to enroll immediately in a cooking class, the better to feed the kids I cruelly shunted aside in order to write this.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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