January 10, 2011

TV: Your OWN Show (OWN, Fri 9)

Well, I couldn't very well let a whole new network pop up and not watch at least one of its offerings, could I? So I picked this, the show most likely to fit with my tastes -- a reality competition. The show is produced by Mark Burnett, and it is a variation on The Apprentice, with ten contestants fighting to win their own TV show on Oprah's OWN network.

The format is familiar: The contestants are divided into two teams, and each week, a guest mentor arrives to supervise them as they produce a talk show segment in the mentor's area of expertise. The first episode gave us Dr. Phil on sex and relationships; next week, it's Vera Wang and makeovers. One team is declared the winner, and whichever member of the losing team is judged most responsible for the failure is sent home.

The first thing to note is that despite the show's subtitle -- Oprah's Search for the Next TV Star -- this isn't really Oprah's search, at least not in the sense that she's actually doing the searching. She shows up at the beginning to welcome and cheer on the contestants, and she'll no doubt be there at the end to congratulate the winner, but the task of eliminating people and sending them home is left to others. After all, we can't have Oprah, the Angel of Goodness and Light, forced to be directly responsible for causing unhappiness, can we?

No, the dirty work is left to each week's guest mentor and to the show's hosts, Nancy O'Dell and Carson Kressley. O'Dell comes off better of the two, with a warmth and charm that set the contestants at ease. Kressley struggles more, and I was reminded what an incredible fluke the chemistry of the Queer Eye cast was; without the rest of the Fab Five around him, he seems lost, and he hasn't yet found the way to tone down his mildly risque humor for the Oprah audience. (That's not to say he won't get better; it took Ted Allen two or three years on the Food Network to finally settle into being a reasonably good host.)

It seems clear that the entertainment value of each episode will depend largely on the skill and involvement of the guest mentor. I'm not a Dr. Phil fan, but he was just right here -- supportive, but not afraid to tell the teams when they'd gone completely off track.

As for the contestants? Well, some are trying too hard, like Elizabeth, the Los Angeles TV reporter who's determined to convince everyone that she knows everything, and Josh, who has cerebral palsy and is so terrified that his disability will be offputting that he speaks entirely in uncomfortable jokes designed to put people at ease, which only makes everyone else feel even more awkward. The early favorite, I think, is Alicia, a mortgage broker from Las Vegas; she seems so poised and intelligent that when the four men are asked to choose one of the six women to even out the teams, she's the instant pick.

There's nothing remotely groundbreaking about Your OWN Show, but if you enjoy this sort of thing, no one does it better than Burnett, and the show moves along with his trademark efficiency and superb knack for casting interesting contestants.

1 comment:

Christopher said...

I really enjoyed the show. Oprah did well casting Nancy O'Dell. She really does put the contestants at ease...and she's so very easy on the eyes! I've always been a fan!