TCA: Oprah Faces Critics And Reporters

“It’s like being thrown to the wolves,” Oprah said frettingly while getting seated onstage for a Q&A session about her new OWN cable network.  She didn’t have to worry. Within a few minutes, she had complete control of the room, taking her time answering questions, telling stories, choking up while doing it, throwing in jokes, inspiring, in short, being Oprah. She invoked her childhood as a poor girl in rural Mississippi raised by her grandmother several times, including when she talked about seeing herself on TV as she introduced OWN to viewers in the channel’s first minutes on the air on Jan.1. “In that moment, I was thinking about this journey and not just those last couple of years with people coming and going and finding the people with the right (attitude). I was thinking about how absolutely extraordinary it is that I can sit at this place coming from this little town in Mississippi.”During the Q&A session – actually, Q&A is an overstatement, the session resembled more a series of monologues by Oprah, with only 5 critics being able to ask questions in 45 minutes – the talk show host talked a lot about her dreams. When she started in TV, her dream was to become a guest host on Good Morning America, she said. Her agent at the time told her that would never going to happen as the colored anchor spot in morning TV had already been taken by Bryant Gumbel. “I let that agent go,” Oprah said. A few other soundbites from her:

– “A running theme in my life is to be used as vehicle for inspiring other people… I see myself as a messenger for a message that is greater than myself and my message is you can, you can, you can”

– On her biggest mistakes: “I made  a big mistake to call what we did ‘Change your life television,'” a slogan she used on her syndicated talk show a decade ago. “Who am I to say I’m changing your life, it’s for others to say.”

– On the ratings for the launch of OWN: “I am grateful that the first phase of what we wanted to happen actually happened. “‘I’m grateful that we weren’t embarrassed. I’m grateful that people came.”

– On her relationship with Discovery Communications’ president and CEO David Zaslav: “Now we’re Zaz and O”

– On pursuing a political career:” I say never say never except for politics.”

– On some underperforming shows on OWN: “Even if (viewers) don’t respond, I can keep them, because I can. Because I like them.”

– On not watching TV herself: “I don’t want all that energy coming into my space; I want to control the energy coming into my space.”

– On whether Anderson Cooper, who is launching a daytime talk show, will be the next Oprah: “(Emphatic) No! The next Anderson, yes. But he will not be the next Oprah.”

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