TV Column: Oprah stretches Lance Armstrong interview from one night to two

Lance Armstrong confessed to Oprah Winfrey about his use of performance-enhancing drugs. Oprah discusses the in-depth interview with the "CBS This Morning" co-hosts.
January 15, 2013

Hearing the media drumbeat grow louder and louder, Oprah Winfrey has decided to stretch her Lance Armstrong interview from one night to two.

So clear your calendar for Thursday at 9 p.m. (as originally announced) — and now also Friday at 9 — for “Oprah and Lance Armstrong: The Worldwide Exclusive” on OWN network.

In Tuesday’s special-inflation announcement, OWN promised that the cyclist would address the “alleged doping scandal” that has plagued his career.

Armstrong is going to come clean to Oprah but not go into great detail about specific cases and events, according to USA Today. Two nights is a lot of time to fill to not go into detail about specific cases and events.

Over the years, Oprah has carved out a niche as the first Station of the Cross on the Road to Redemption for celebrities.

Most recently, David Letterman discussed his office affairs with Oprah — a.k.a. the Queen of the Confessional — to clean up his reputation as he was being honored by the Kennedy Center.

And in 2010, Jay Leno made his pilgrimage to Oprah before returning as host of “The Tonight Show” in March of that year. Leno sought absolution after being blamed for Conan O’Brien’s resignation from the iconic NBC late-night show. Leno admitted to Oprah that he’d “told a little white lie” when he announced on the air in 2004 that he would “retire” after Conan took over “Tonight” in ’09.

Armstrong’s sit-down with Oprah is the only interview that the seven-time Tour de France winner has given since he was stripped of his titles and dropped from endorsement deals worth millions of dollars. That happened last year after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released an extensive report accusing the cyclist of doping throughout his career.

Armstrong received a lifetime ban on competing professionally.

Oprah told the gang on BFF Gayle King’s show, “CBS This Morning,” that she added the second night because her interview with Armstrong went on for 2 1 / 2 hours. The first night was scheduled for 90 minutes, she said Tuesday, which includes only 65 minutes of interview.

Oprah said the interview will run over two nights because “we felt that to leave over half of this on the cutting-room floor, after millions of people have been waiting for years for many of these answers, would not be the right thing to do.”

World beyond ‘Downton’

“Television doesn’t end with ‘Downton Abbey,’ ” Jeremy Irons told a ballroom full of surprised TV critics and chagrined PBS suits.

Dressed in his traditional Bronte Romantic-Lead Press Tour costume — rough cotton pants tucked into heavy black wandering-across-the-moors boots, etc. — Irons had come to plug his upcoming PBS program, “Shakespeare Uncovered,” in which he and other actors who have performed the Bard’s work discuss the roots of his plays.

The show debuts Jan. 25 and features Ethan Hawke explaining “Macbeth,” Joely Richardson tackling Shakespeare’s comedies — and Irons probes “Henry IV” and “Henry V.”

But what captured critics’ attention was his breezy candor about “Downton” — which, ever since PBS’s press-tour at-bat began the previous day, had been The Prettiest Girl At the Party.

Since Monday morning, it had been “ ‘Downton’ this,” and “ ‘Downton’ that,” while the casts and producers of other PBS shows kept their upper lips stiff at the tour, while vultures gnawed at their bosoms.

Irons wasn’t having it.

Shakespeare’s plays, he said, “still speak to us, they have resonance — hundreds of plays written since then don’t,” he said. And “Shakespeare Uncovered” “opens up to this huge American audience this gold dust, and shows them [that] television doesn’t end with ‘Downton Abbey.’ If you think that’s good . . . see what real writing, real authors and real characters are about.”

“There’s more to TV than ‘Downton Abbey,’ ” he also sniffed.

“Downton,” he said, warming to his theme, is like the Ford Fiesta of drama. “A Ford Fiesta will get you there and give you a good time. But an Aston Martin . . . ” he said, though he did not get to finish his thought as the crowd erupted in laughter.

Of performing Shakespeare, Irons said that it takes projection and “practice, practice, practice — you can’t sort of mutter it in a ‘Downton Abbey’ way.”

“We do love ‘Downton Abbey’,” PBS member station WNET exec Stephen Segaller, sitting on stage next to Irons, added nervously.

Finally, one critic took a microphone and said he got the feeling that Irons thought “Downton” was overrated, “but I don’t want to misrepresent you when I write my little story. Can you clarify your thoughts?”

“If I shot myself now, would I create enough of a diversion?” Segaller joked.

Critics laughed.

“I’m a terrible television snob. . . . I’ve never seen ‘Downton Abbey,’ so I don’t know what I’m talking about,” the Oscar-winning actor responded happily.

“I’m sure it’s splendid,” he snickered, adding: “I’m conscious you’ve all been here for 14 weeks” and that he thought he’d “stir the pot to keep you awake.”

Remember how we warned you earlier this week not to expect PBS to air “Downton Abbey” episodes closer to their run in the U.K.? That after the third-season debut clocked nearly 8 million viewers for PBS, nearly six months after it debuted in the U.K. — quadrupling PBS’s prime-time average, which PBS chief Paula Kerger called “a beautiful thing”?

“Masterpiece” exec producer Rebecca Eaton announced Tuesday that Season 4 of “Downton” will begin shooting in a matter of weeks “and, fingers crossed, will show up in January of 2014.”

To read more from Winter TV Press Tour 2013, go to washingtonpost
.com/tvblog.

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