The TV Column: Sarah Palin to Be Guest on 'Oprah'

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By Lisa de Moraes
Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Oprah Winfrey, on a campaign to climb back from last season's ratings slump, will attempt to kiss and make up with conservative viewers on Nov. 16 when she has Sarah Palin on her syndicated talk show .

You may have noticed that the appearance by the former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential candidate is happening smack dab in the middle of the November ratings derby.

It's also the day before Palin's new book, "Going Rogue: An American Life," is scheduled to hit bookstores.

Oprah's production company, Harpo, claims it will be Palin's first interview about the book. We'll see about that.

More important, Harpo also claims it will be the first time Oprah and Palin will have met, and Harpo should know.

It's not just another show booking for Oprah. She's going whole hog this season to try to recover from the ratings tumble she took last season when her audience slid to under 7 million viewers. And, during one awful week in July, "The Oprah Winfrey Show" suffered its smallest ratings since its debut way back in 1985.

Industry navel gazers speculated Oprah had turned off some of her conservative viewers -- or, more accurately, they had turned her off -- when she not only endorsed then presidential candidate Barack Obama but even campaigned for him. (Palin, of course, was the running mate of Obama's rival, Sen. John McCain.)

It was the first time Oprah had stripped off her apolitical veneer and publicly endorsed a political candidate. At the time, Oprah told CNN's Larry King she did it because "what [Obama] stands for" was "worth me going out on a limb for."

And her ratings took a tumble, though hers was not the only syndicated show to lose audience last season and she still managed to wind up at the top of the syndication heap at season's end.

Even so, Oprah has largely abandoned her whole aspirational programming mantra this season and gone in for the more purely commercial.

That has translated into the longest-two-day-interview-ever with Whitney Houston to kick off Houston's latest comeback attempt; Oprah's deliciously detailed interview with Erin Andrews, the ESPN reporter who was unknowingly videotaped nude in a hotel room by some stalker guy; and her highly touted, things-could-get-rough, face-to-face meeting between former world champion boxers Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield -- their first meeting since Tyson bit off part of Holyfield's ear during a 1997 WBA heavyweight title fight.

And now, add to that list Palin, whose book was No. 2 on Amazon.com's bestseller list Tuesday afternoon.


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