'Oprah: Behind the Scenes' premiere: Now we're talking, OWN!

Oprah-WinfreyImage Credit: Janet Mayer/PR PhotosSince Oprah Winfrey is contractually incapable of doing a talk show for OWN while her syndicated one continues to air, her executives came up with a pretty ingenious way of featuring the Queen of Daytime on her new cabler: Oprah: Behind the Scenes. Narrated by Winfrey, the show takes a behind-the-scenes look at the 25th and final season of Oprah before she rides off into the sunset next September. What a marvelous idea: I didn’t catch the premiere episode of Oprah but felt like I got a much better perspective of the adrenaline-fueled hour by watching Behind the Scenes. I doubt we’ll ever witness those truly authentic behind-the-scenes moments, like Winfrey possibly having an epic meltdown or executive producer Sheri Salata blowing up at her staff, but I definitely got the idea that it’s not all fun and games for the 464 employees at Harpo Studios in Chicago.

Anyone who caught the first episode of Oprah already knows that Winfrey treated her audience to a free Australian trip, but it was still a gas to watch her production team whoop it up in the booth as their boss addressed the audience of rabid, mouth-breathing fans. But the real nail-biter — at least for me — was watching how producer Brian Piotrowicz managed to perfectly time the arrival of six fans from the Boston area to Oprah’s stage. It was his crazy thought to have the gals drive right onto a live show — a stunt that even Winfrey doubted could happen. But Piotrowicz executed it magnificently, even though he and his cohorts truly sweated the details, like disguising the outside of Harpo Studios to make it look like a hotel parking garage. He cried when it was all over, and I didn’t blame him.

Moving forward, my hope is that we’ll learn lots more about those employees who bust their asses to make Oprah the No. 1 talk show (and where they’ll go after it all ends). Salata told us tonight that she doesn’t have children, she “lives and breathes Harpo,” and feels “Everest-like pressure to deliver the best 130 shows we’ve ever done.”  That woman looks like one helluva ballbuster, so if anyone can do it, she can. But I want to know more. We also met a working mom-cum-senior producer named Jenna Kostelnik, who admits there’s a mighty balancing act between caring for a kid and pleasing Winfrey. “It’s really hard to impress her,” Kostelnik admits. I can only imagine. I’m also thinking that she and Salata probably do a lot of stress eating, so it was rather refreshing to see that they were similar in size to Winfrey. Real-looking women! Clearly, this show is not taped in Hollywood.

Winfrey does let her proverbial hair down in Behind the Scenes, like appearing makeup-free and creating a mess in the office kitchen (“Where’s all my help,” she asks no one in particular). She gets somewhat impatient with a fellow producer who questions whether she knows “Love Train,” the tune selected for her flashy entrance with John Travolta. “You can’t use your Negro license” if you don’t know the song, Winfrey quips. And I especially enjoyed how Winfrey only gave 30 seconds to Travolta so they could rehearse, and how she narrated the entire episode with her racks and racks of shoes serving as a background. Awesome.

This show’s going on my season pass. You?

Read more:
‘Kidnapped by the Kids': Oprah kicks off new network
What to expect from OWN on Jan. 1
Oprah Down Under: Screaming Aussies, free loot, and one Hugh Jaccident
Oprah’s new OWN trailer

Comments (51 total) Add your comment
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  • Rosie

    i don’t get all the hoopla surrounding oprah. she’s done some great things and provided much-needed awareness for several causes, but overall she’s treated too much like a goddess. people should get over their oprah obsession.

    • Ma’at

      I’m with ya. I mean I REALLY like Oprah but the deification is a bit much.

      • Dwight K Schrute

        Oprah is crap.

      • Dizo

        Oprah rocks!

      • fggfg

        Life Is To Be Shared With Others. Stop Wasting Time Living It Alone. Find The Companion Of Your Choice And Enjoy The Perfect Romance.[[Seek’wea’lthy . ℃ ○ M.]] offers you a great platform to meet activity partners, travel companions and dream loverhg_________vsa

    • krava

      It’s just show business. Don’t let it bother you.

      • ger

        This is the sanest comment I’ve ever seen. And you can plug it in to just about any comments section on this site.

    • cici217

      I’ve never understood the hoopla surrounding her either. She gives away products that the manufacturers provide to her show so it costs her production company nothing, yet everyone thinks she’s spending tons of her own $$$. she has shows pushing advise like weight loss, but she doesn’t follow it and then admits it. so why should an audience listen to her. I bet OWN struggles badly and only gets a little bump when she finally has another show. Just sounds like it will be a big mess

  • Season

    I found it interesting that the first show to air on the network was about children telling their father how much his work was taking him away from them and the first thing on Oprah: Behind the Scenes shows a bunch of people talking about how much time they sacrifice with their spouses and children to produce the show.

    • sam

      R.I.P. DISCOVERY HEALTH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Heidi

      I so agree! I was surprised it was chosen for the ‘first thing to air’ when it is quite obvious Oprah expects her staff to put work first. I’ll bet her staffers’ children don’t think Oprah rocks quite the way her fans do.

  • Barry

    I wish that my TV provider – FIOS – WASN’T carrying her show on the basic level of service. I HATE this RACIST!

    • Ma’at

      Oprah? A racist? ROFLMAO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Scytherius

      God. You teabagging bigots are the worst among us. Bigots all. I suppose you have a Nazi swastika on your arm?

    • Bast

      Racist? Maybe. Hypocrite? Definitely. For so many years Oprah’s show has been built on the whole “Rah Rah We Women Can Do Anything” platform. So who does she end up supporting in the presidential election? Gee, what a surprise.

      • belavu

        It would be pretty stupid to support someone for president just because they’re a woman. Oprah knew Obama personally and he spoke to the ideals she was passionate about. He symbolized hope and the American dream and that’s what Oprah’s about.

      • Barry

        No Belavu, she supported him because of his skin color.

      • @belavu

        And it would be even more stupider to think that her support wouldn’t come at a price. You KNOW she was expecting something – an ambassadorship, maybe (a la Shirley Temple Black)? When that didn’t happen her support cooled noticably. LOL

      • nava

        What kind of reward could Obama have possibly given her? An ambassadorship is nothing compared to having your own network, magazine, radio channel, billions of dollars etc.

      • @nava

        Sometimes it’s not about the money, hon. You’d be amazed how desirable political clout can be.

      • Heidi

        I’d bet she was hoping to get the label of ‘advisor’ or, even ‘spiritual advisor’ but Michelle smartly nixed that :) LOL

      • Well

        Oprah has more political clout as the billionaire queen of all media then she would as some invisible ambassador. She single-handedly put a black man in the white house.

      • Kelcie

        Racist? Doubt it. Over-analyzing? Definitely.

  • krava

    Her producers seem very competent, hard working, and down to earth. I really like the type of people she employs.

  • MeToo

    I think the show was GREAT and can’t wait for more. My 2011 resolution to watch less tv (1h a day) has already failed. Looks like I’ll be watching 2hours of tv as usual. LOL

  • Jamie

    I really enjoyed both episodes of this program. I am a regular viewer of the Oprah Winfrey Show. It’s cool to get to know some of the people who really make the show happen & I have much respect for how hard they work. Love her or not- she’s had a successful 25 years of television. I’m excited to see what’s to come with OWN.

  • JB Early

    While it is undeniably a skill to be able to continually sell hot air to the great unwashed, what talent has this individual ever shown? As tempting an acronym as OWN is for her brand of superficial drivel, I think the name “egO” would have been more honest. As for it just being “show business” – Miss Winfrey is like the guy who cleaned up after the animals at the circus & hated his job. When asked why he wouldn’t quit, he replied – “What! and leave show business?” In that light, the word deification employed here in another comment, in true Oprah-like fashion, had one too many “I’s”. . ..

    • favoru

      I think she’s the most talented. She makes us laugh, cry, get excited, get inspired, has interesting bits of wisdom. Her timing, facial expressions, tone and body language are all spectacular and perfectly coordinated. She really makes a hosting talk show an incredible art form.

    • Traci

      Yes because Oprah is the first person to ever name a TV channel after herself.

  • joyaliz

    As someone who has been inspired by Oprah since childhood, I might be biased. However, compared to so many of the untalented, less inspiring and ill-informed celebrities we are forced to deal with today. I will take Oprah any day. She has changed how people view the world. Good luck Ms. Winfrey.

    • johnC

      Oprah is as fake as a celebrity can be!

      The world would be much better without her program on air for 25 years. I am going to hide her channel permanently from my line up.

      • Kelcie

        I’d love to hear your reasoning for doing that.

  • megr

    i kind of want to watch the show after reading this blog. sounds interesting

  • RMH

    I’ve always liked Oprah’s shows for the most part. But, I love Discovery Health Channel…I hope that doesn’t disappear! Hopefully, she’ll let the programming happen instead of micromanaging. The only real complaint I have about Oprah is that she now interviews people with emotional problems…she is NOT a therapist. I wish she would remember this. Life experiences help us to understand others, but you still need the formal education at a Masters levelin counseling.

  • RMH

    I’ve always liked Oprah’s shows for the most part. But, I love Discovery Health Channel…I hope that doesn’t disappear! Hopefully, she’ll let the programming happen instead of micromanaging. The only real complaint I have about Oprah is that she now interviews people with emotional problems…she is NOT a therapist. I wish she would remember this. Life experiences help us to understand others, but you still need the formal education at a Masters level in counseling.

    • Atuo

      The 2nd quote is a really good one. The cirdet goes to Mahatma Ghandi for that one. Try googling “be the change” – a lot of links come up! I’m a sucker for a good quote, too. My husband always pulls them out of nowhere, but my favorite is: “If you continue to do what you do, you will continue to have what you have.” Don’t know where he got that one from. Thanks for a nice start to the weekend!

  • Oliver

    I liked the show. I agree with the issue of needing to get to know the cast better.

    However, for me, the part I liked the least was the “coming up” previews which make it look like Oprah might get mad, but then she doesn’t. It is unnecessary to create this type of conflict and it seems a bit disrespectful. Oprah seems to go out of her way to be fair and inspiring to her staff. Thus, to titillate the audience that she might be mean is dumb.

    • Ellen

      Oh gawd you are naive/blind. She’s on TV!

  • FreakinLoon

    All I could stare at was John Travolta’s REALLY BAD toupee! All that money (cause you know it’s not cheap), and it looks like it’s going to join in on the conversation.

  • gigi

    Can anyone in Hollywood make a billion dollars and just retire and relax? Is fame that impt. that you can’t just do humantarian work after you have proven yourself over and over. Maybe if you stopped being such a workohlic you could get workout and be a normal weight and be happy. Not yo-yo deiting, declaring your diets, denying depression, and making people like Dr. Phil famous, who is just a jerk. And Dr. Oz got old after the 100th episode on obestity.

    • Muvo

      Why should she retire? She’s only 56. Some people love their wok and can true joy from it. Not everyones lazy like you.

  • Mary

    Disappointed and surprised the network is not shown in High Definition, at least on Direct TV. It feels like a lower quality cable channel, in comparison. Hope they can change this ASAP, or I’ll lose interest. Nobody likes watching unfocused and fuzzy television shows.

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