It's been almost a week since the launch of the Oprah Winfrey Network. The debut was so impressive that I tuned in every night this week to see what was on the menu. I have not been disappointed.
As I write this, I think of the critics and the cynics who probably won't watch OWN because they expect the programming to be sappy, or maudlin or opinionated or too much about Oprah. Yes, Oprah is an easy target. For twenty-five years, she's been the rich, powerful and opinionated host of a talk show that has, at times, been sappy and maudlin. It's easy to spoof her loud trumpeting whether she's touting a guest or the best damned door prizes in all of television. She cries at sad stories and swoons over John Travolta and gains and loses weight and talks about spirituality. She recommends depressing books and produces depressing movies and now, she's shown the audacity to think she can entertain us 24/7/365. Good God Almighty!
I'll tell you what: I love OWN. Not only does the lineup of shows impress me, it makes me hopeful about the future of women.
One of the first shows to hook me was Master Class. It's an hour long program that gives masters of their games the chance to describe how they became who they are. The first episode featured Jay-Z. I'm a huge Jay-Z fan, so I was already familiar with the details of his life. But it was a rare treat for me to hear him talk at length. And it was a long overdue chance for many Oprah fans to overcome that blind, deaf paralysis that sets in when they hear rap music. It gave them a chance to actually see beyond the blur of dark skin and hear beneath the perceived angry-black-man's roar to the wit and charm and compassion and intelligence of a really cool guy.
In the Bedroom, hosted by Dr. Laura Berman is the most intelligent, all encompassing show about sex that I've seen. Berman manages to analyze disastrous sex lives from a physical, psychological, political and spiritual point of view. Most sex-related talk shows are surprising primarily because of what they reveal about the range of quirks and fetishes that exist. This show surprises you by pointing out the parallels that exist between a person's sexual, psychological and social attitudes.
There are a number of other shows that are, in true Oprah fashion, thought provoking and enlightening and designed to weave viewers through walks of life they've never tread. The familiar faces are there: Dr.Phil, Suze Orman, Dr. Oz. As for Oprah's presence, I am happy to tell the haters that Oprah does not feel the need to insert herself into every show. Those who believe she is arrogant or egotistical will probably never understand that she is simply a smart woman who knows she's smart. She understands that because of her wealth and fame, she gets to see more of life than most. And because of her compassionate nature, she feels compelled to share the wisdom and insight she's gained as a result of that privilege.
That is why OWN makes me hopeful. As Oprah's staff continues to scour the news and travel the globe in search of mysteries and miracles and hot messes, she will share that information, not to exploit or ridicule, but to help. We women need to continue to grow and grow up. We need to continue to expand our minds and hearts and boundaries far past the outskirts of our country and religion and race. The universe is growing and we need to keep up. Luckily for us, at her core, Oprah Winfrey remains a reporter. No one does it better.
Donna Butler is the author of Manifesting Daddy. Learn more at www.donnabutler.com
or visit her blog at http://blog.donnabutler.com