TOUCHED BY THE HAND OF OPRAH: The long-awaited move by Oprah Winfrey into primetime is happening, after years of pleading by ABC who wanted more than a few specials and TV movies. Winfrey’s Harpo Productions are working on two reality shows, both of which will focus on people being given money and help in order to improve their lives and the lives of others. "Oprah Winfrey getting into series TV is monumental," ABC Entertainment president Steve McPherson.
Oprah Winfrey’s The Big Give will follow 10 contestants who are given cash and resources and challenged to "find dramatic and emotional ways to use the coin to help others," according to a Variety story. Contestants will be eliminated each week, and the last one standing winning the chance to have "his or her wildest wish granted."
Your Money Or Your Life will focus an episode each on an individual family in crisis, and the "action team" that will "move in and give the family a total money and life makeover." Neither show will indulge in the sort of cruelty and humiliation that often typify reality TV (and make it so terribly watchable, not coincidentally.)
The shows will be produced in Chicago, Winfrey’s home base, and Los Angeles, and Winfrey will appear in at least one of the shows, but it’s still unknown whether she’ll host either. No firm date has been given for either show’s debut.
"We’re starting to open the door in all sorts of arenas, from scripted and unscripted to digital," said Ellen Rakieten, an exec VP at Harpo TV. "We’re open for business in any area that’s within the mission statement for Harpo and the Oprah brand."
In other words, Oprah will be everywhere, intervening in the lives of people, working as a benevolent but implacable force for change and redemption. Sounds familiar? She became a one-word cultural phenomenon by crossing game show hosts like Bob Barker with legendary evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson in the daytime TV format, but the move to primetime seems to see Oprah taking on the role of — dare we say it? — God.