Home > Reality Check > Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star: I Was There

Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star: I Was There

It’s official. OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) and its lineup of programming premiered for the New Year. One of the shows to kick off at OWN studios this month is Your OWN Show: Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star. In Donald Trump’s The Apprentice like reality TV format, 10 finalists from across the country vie for the chance to get a talk show that will air on OWN. The series is executive produced by Mark Burnett (The Apprentice and Survivor).

I was very anxious to see the Next TV Star since I was among the throng of hopefuls who auditioned for Oprah. I didn’t audition myself, but I was in the parking lot of Kohl’s in Howell, New Jersey during the open casting call. I was there at 5 AM—with Duncan doughnuts and coffee in hand—to support my cousin who was one of the contenders (she should be competing on the show). In total, some 15,000 people applied to compete. More than 9,500 also sent in online audition videos. According to reports, more than 143 million people voted online for their favorites.

At the open call, groups of 10 people at a time were summoned to pitch their show concept to Oprah’s screeners. There were the typical eccentrics who stood out in the crowd—including the “I could be Lady Gaga’s twin” bunch. But most of the people I observed audition that day were passionate, professional, and polished. Some exceptional would-be winners presented some great, even unique, talk show ideas.

So it came as a surprise to me. No, it came as a shock when I learned who made the cut. The 10 finalists chosen were the ones who “allegedly” had the “it” factor. These Next TV Star hopefuls include a preacher, a gay comedian, and a financial guru.

Most of the finalists are clueless and amateurish, at least based on the show opener and first three episodes. Maybe 3 out of the 10 possess the potential to produce their own TV show. But before the creme rises to the top, viewers are subjected to the mishaps of the rest of group who are nice, entertaining people in a Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey sort of way.

I do like Burnett’s set-up. The participants are grouped into two teams (mostly men vs. women) to produce a talk show each week with a celebrity guest host. The TV-host related challenges range from booking interviews and researching story ideas to successfully completing a pilot presentation. Whereas The Apprentice has team project managers the Next TV Star has team executive producers. Two people from the losing team are selected for elimination. Each contender has one final shot at making a good impression by conducting a quick one-on-one interview with that week’s celebrity judge.

During the premier episode of the Next TV Star, the two teams had to prepare a segment about sex and relationships for guest judge Dr. Phil McGraw. The losing team did a segment on how men who don’t wear condoms are considerably happier. You’ve got to be kidding. That was pretty much Dr. Phil’s reaction who thought the topic was silly.

The second episode’s challenge was to produce makeover segments that had to be about more than great clothes and hair—the two teams needed to tell compelling stories about the subjects to impress guest judge Vera Wang. Both teams had great makeovers but the losing team missed the mark because their on camera host kept flubbing the interview questions. The infuriating part is that this same contestant had a chance to interview Vera Wang to prove that he deserved to stay on the show. He never heard of Wang before, even though from the challenge he knew she was a fashion designer. So, he opted to ask her did she think it was fair that he was about to get booted from the show. What? Give me a break. Even if he had asked her “how do I look” or “I just lost over 60 pounds what fashion tips do you have for me” those would have been plausible, passable questions.

Last week’s episode, the teams had to create a late night style comedy monologue and host an interview segment with celebrity guest and legendary late night talk show host Arsenio Hall. The winning team out-shined the losing team because they told better jokes and was more personable. Plus, they got a scoop~Arsenio and Eddie are working on a sequel to Coming To America. This week’s task is to produce a cooking segment. Well the two top hopefuls for this theme, Eric Warren, 57, an expert in the kitchen from Lawndale, California, and Aunt Flora, 60, a soul food queen from Cincinnati who impressed Martha Stewart with her cobbler, have been kicked off the show. Oh, there is still the mother who likes to cook. So, yet another lopsided competition is likely to take place.

I am not sure who will be the final winner but the front-runners are the three comedians. Twenty-five year old Zach Anner from Austin, Texas, a globe trotter in a wheelchair (he has cerebral palsy) who wants to host an inspirational travel show aimed at people who never thought they were physically capable of traveling. Ryan O’Connor, 29, of West Hollywood, California, who wants a combination variety and talk show. He also says he “wants to be the country’s gay best friend.” Terey Summers, 46, a comedic motivational speaker from Goodyear, Arizona; she wants a traditional Rosie O’Donnell style talk show. Another one to watch is thirty-nine year old Alicia Taylor of Las Vegas who wants to be the next Suze Orman. Her would-be show format is to make money fun, informative and entertaining. Meet the rest of the contestants for Your Own show here.

The viewers may have had some say in the people who got to compete as Oprah’s Next TV Star. But thank goodness they won’t get to pick the final winner. That job is reserved for the pros. We have witnessed other competition reality TV shows (i.e., American Idol and Dancing With The Stars) where viewers tend to vote for the more popular or most likable person rather than the most talented or more qualified contender. The final winner to get his or her OWN TV show will be selected by the hosts and guest judges including Oprah’s gal pal Gayle King.

I have to admit I’m loving the guest judges and hosts of Your OWN Show: Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star. Nancy O’Dell formerly of Access Hollywood and Carson Kressley, best known as the style guru from Queer Eye for The Straight Guy who has since hosted ABC’s True Beauty from executive producers Tyra Banks and Ashton Kutcher.  And I love the “everybody is a star” show theme. The song, titled “Own It,” was produced and performed by Will.i.am. I just hope the remaining episodes live up to OWN’s great expectations.

~Carolyn M. Brown

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Categories: Reality Check
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