Can Rosie O'Donnell's talk show help OWN?
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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Oprah Winfrey appeared before TV critics to emphasize that now that her daytime talk show is done, she's ready to concentrate her efforts on her cable network, OWN.
More importantly, Ms. Winfrey announced plans for the debut of repackaged reruns of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" that will air under the title "OWN Your Life (the Oprah class)," airing weekdays at 8 p.m. beginning Oct. 10.
But the network's best bet for success might just be "The Rosie Show" (7 p.m. weekdays beginning Oct. 10), if star Rosie O'Donnell's successful appearance was a good indication. Although she's a polarizing figure for some viewers, Ms. O'Donnell offered a reminder at how quick and funny she can be.
She also has an accurate sense of her appeal.
"The reason for my success is I really am not aspirational, I'm inspirational in that people at home relate to me," she said. "Nobody is at home going, 'If only I could be Rosie O'Donnell, an overweight lesbian who yells too much,' but I'm very relatable. I think it is inspirational in that Oprah recognizes something in me that is germane to her bigger message."
Ms. O'Donnell had a previous daytime talk show run from 1996 to 2002. Her new program will feature one celebrity interview per episode, audience segments and a behind-the-scenes segment that sounds a lot like OWN's "Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes."
National Geographic Channel will get a jump on other networks' remembrances of the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 with a week of programming beginning Aug. 28 that includes "George W. Bush: The 9/11 Interview" (10 p.m. Aug. 28).
NGC previewed for TV critics the first five minutes of the film by producer/director Peter Schnall, which shows the former president discussing his decision not to immediately leave story time with children at an elementary school because he said he didn't want to upset them.
The interview was recorded over two days and the program includes only President Bush's recollections of that day with no narrator used.
"We did not have to give the president or his staff the questions beforehand," Mr. Schnall said, noting that he assumed the president knew video footage from the classroom visit would be brought up. "What I tried to do was get a sense of what he was really thinking at that moment."
HBO announced it has renewed "Real Time With Bill Maher" for a 10th season to air in 2012.
Network executives said they're also still considering making a pair of "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" movies for HBO, but they just received scripts to consider, so no decisions have been made.
The premium cable channel also announced launch dates for several fall series, including "Boardwalk Empire" (9 p.m. Sept. 25), "Hung" (10 p.m. Oct. 2), "How to Make It in America" (10:30 p.m. Oct. 2), "Bored to Death" (9 p.m. Oct. 3) and new series "Enlightened" (9:30 p.m. Oct. 3).
Programming original series on Monday is a repeat of an experiment HBO tried and abandoned after a few weeks in 2005.
HBO Programming president Michael Lombardo said opening up original programming on Monday was not "a strategic choice as much as trying to figure out how to air five shows in the fall.
"I think we're nervously optimistic," he said of the expansion to Monday, noting viewing patterns now show only 50-60 percent of an HBO show's audience watches it in its premiere time slot. Others watch HBO shows later via on demand, DVR or mobile viewing.
Another new drama, "Luck," from executive producer David Milch ("Deadwood"), will debut in January.
HBO executives seem to be smarting from a lack of Emmy nominations for their half-hour series that are ostensibly comedies but often aren't funny.
"We have some great shows," Mr. Lombardo said. "We would like some of those shows to pop out a bit more. None of those shows were recognized by the Emmy voters this year, and that's frustrating for us."
But the most questions for HBO executives centered on the network's hit fantasy "Game of Thrones," which will be back for a 10-episode second season in 2012. Why only 10 episodes when most HBO series produce 12? Because that's all producers can do, executives said.
"There's no way they could physically do more than 10 episodes without making a decision to dilute the quality of the execution," Mr. Lombardo said. (I take that to mean there's a set amount of money HBO is willing to spend on the show for a season, and to stretch the series to 12 episodes would mean a lower per-episode budget.)
Much has been made of how long it takes George R.R. Martin, author of the "Game of Thrones" books, to complete writing each book that the series is based on, and HBO executives did not promise the TV show will end where the books end.
"We don't say you've got to finish the second book in this season. [The show's producers] find the storytelling structure that works for them," Mr. Lombardo said. "It's not, 'We have to get to this point because of the books.' ... We're doing this without any predetermined idea of how many seasons we can do this."
First Published July 30, 2011 12:00 am