‘Oprah’s Lifeclass’ to expand to 2 hours on Fridays

October 18, 2011

In an effort to gin up a bigger audience, the Oprah Winfrey Network announced Tuesday that it would expand its 8 p.m. “Oprah’s Lifeclass” to two hours on Fridays.

“Oprah’s Lifeclass” (airing 8 to 9 p.m., after Rosie O’Donnell’s talk show) will continue to be what OWN describes as Oprah’s most personal revelations, new insights and life lessons gleaned from the 25-year history of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” — or, as we like to call the new show, “a clever ‘Oprah’ clip job.”

Starting this Friday, from 9 to 10 p.m., an expanded “Oprah’s Lifeclass” will feature Actual Live Oprah in a smallish studio, taking questions about the repurposed “Oprah” footage from a smallish audience. Actual Live Oprah will also take questions — tweeted and Skyped in from her millions of fans worldwide — about what they’ve just seen on the show.

The Friday Actual Live Oprah feature is an outgrowth of what OWN learned during the premiere week of “Oprah’s Lifeclass” — or, as we like to call it, last week.

During the premiere week, after each episode, Actual Live Oprah took questions about the episode in the form of an online chat. Imagine the surprise when the OWN show averaged 310,000 viewers and the online chat copped 1.6 million streams.

“Our first week of online discussions for ‘Lifeclass’ generated an overwhelming response,” OWN President Sheri Salata said in Tuesday’s announcement. “Now, Oprah fans from around the world will be able to continue these powerful conversations every Friday night.”

But only four times. Because “Oprah’s Lifeclass” has been ordered for only four more weeks, according to an OWN spokeswoman.

Back in July, when OWN unveiled “Oprah’s Lifeclass” — then titled “OWN Your Life (The Oprah Class)” — Salata called it “a signature series” for the network, which is a joint venture of Oprah’s Harpo company and Silver Spring-based Discovery Communications.

As recently as last month, one of Harpo’s hometown newspapers, the Chicago Tribune, called “Oprah’s Lifeclass” an eight-week prime-time strip. “Strip” means it airs every night, Monday through Friday. Five weeks is an unusually short run for a “signature” show. But it’s also unusual for a five-week show to have had three names before it launches.

Before “Oprah’s Lifeclass,” this one was first called “Oprah’s Encores,” then “OWN Your Life (The Oprah Class).” But OWN has been a pretty unusual network from the get-go.

‘Talk’s’ book club

As Oprah tries to figure things out, others swoop in, in hopes of picking up some of the scraps of her daytime empire.

The CBS gabber “The Talk,” for instance, announced Tuesday that on Nov. 11, it would launch a new “Book Buzz” series, featuring a regular discussion of “thought-provoking books,” a la Oprah’s book club.

Oprah’s book club was so successful that it put moribund books on the bestseller list and made rock stars out of authors.

First up for “Book Buzz”: Iris Krasnow’s “The Secret Lives of Wives: Women Share What It Really Takes to Stay Married.”

This little gem features interviews that Krasnow conducted with more than 200 women whose marriages had lasted 15 to 70 years.

Krasnow discovered, “The Talk” said, that all the women had taken “bold — sometimes surprising — steps to maintain their marriages.”

One month before on-air discussion of the book, “Talk” hosts will announce the Book Buzz selection so viewers can read up and be prepared to join the conversation.

Readers can share their thoughts on Twitter or Facebook — and during the show, of course, if they’re lucky enough to be in the audience and if Sharon Osbourne doesn’t fill all the available airtime with useful tips on the bold steps she’s taken to maintain her they-said-it-wouldn’t-last marriage to Ozzy.

Shopping Sheen

Charlie Sheen and his new producers have been out shopping their new sitcom, “Anger Management.”

Now, the trade site Deadline.com has a long piece on how it’s been going. Nothing much new — but it’s Sheen, so even no news is must-know news, right?

On the other hand, you’re busy people — your time is valuable. So we’ve boiled down the report for you:

Everyone except CBS (duh) and TBS — the corporate sibling of “Two and a Half Men” production company Warner Bros. TV — appears to have taken meetings with the production company Debmar-Mercury/Lionsgate TV.

The Debmar-Mercury model — the one TBS agreed to in launching Debmar-Mercury’s Tyler Perry franchises — falls into the Broadcast TV Life Is Too Short category.

The Debmar-Mercury model (a.k.a. the 10-90 Model) goes like this: You, the network, agree to buy and telecast 10 episodes. Should those 10 hit an agreed-upon ratings threshold, you’re on the hook for 90 episodes more. Period.

So broadcast networks are a long shot — unless one could buy the show with the option of palming it off on a cable cousin should things not work out — such as network/cable cousins NBC and USA, or Fox and FX, Deadline and others have speculated.

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