Oprah Winfrey Network has picked up its Flex & Shanice docu-pilot to series, ordering eight episodes for the fall. The weekly one-hour docu-series follows actor Flex Alexander his wife, ’90s pop singer Shanice, and their two children as they live in a rental home with their extended family – nine in all — to help cover the cost. The program will join OWN’s Saturday lineup; a May 31 preview ranked as the night’s No. 1 rated nonsports cable telecast among African-American women 25-54 and 18-49. “Saturday nights on OWN have become the place to be for viewers seeking great family entertainment,” OWN President Sheri Salata said in today’s announcement. “Flex, Shanice and their big, loud, loving brood are not unlike many families today who have combined resources in order to get through some tough times.”
OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network said today it will simulcast Maya Angelou’s private memorial service at Wake Forest University in North Carolina tomorrow at 10 AM ET/7 AM PT. The service will also be available to view on Oprah.com at www.Oprah.com/MayaAngelou. The university in Winston-Salem, where Angelou began teaching in 1982, also will live-stream the service. Michelle Obama will speak Saturday morning at the university’s Wait Chapel. President Obama’s sister Maya was named after Angelou, and Obama awarded Angelou with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011. Angelou died at her Winston-Salem home last week; she had been “frail” and suffering from heart problems, according to her agent.
Related: R.I.P. Maya Angelou
Two days after Oprah Winfrey’s OWN announced a docu-series about Michael Sam, the first openly gay football player to be drafted into the NFL, the network is putting the project on hold. “After careful consideration and discussion with the St. Louis Rams, The Untitled Michael Sam Project has been postponed, allowing Michael the best opportunity to achieve his dream of making the team,” the network said today. “We will continue to support him in his journey to earn a spot playing for the Rams.” The decision comes after the announcement of Sam’s OWN series was met with mixed reaction, with some contending it could be a distraction, and the NFL denying it had any knowledge of it before the draft.
One day after telling TMZ — the media outlet of record on Donald Sterling’s Racist Remarks story — she is not interested in buying the Sterling-owned Los Angeles Clippers, Oprah Winfrey let it be known she is interested in buying the NBA team. Because that kind of publicity is a terrible thing to waste. “No, I won’t be buying the Clippers, but I hear Magic Johnson might be,” Oprah told TMZ on Tuesday, after greeting its representative with a chatty, “Chai it up! Chai it up!” – because Oprah’s also got a new drink to sell, in partnership with Starbucks.
Oprah was cast as the lead in the Whither Goest Clippers saga this morning when ESPN reported she was interested in making a bid for the team with David Geffen, whose interest in buying the team was yesterday’s news – and far less sexy, based on media pickup. Geffen made an unsuccessful bid for the team a few years ago, sans Oprah. Also yesterday’s news: Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, who today is said to be part of the Team Oprah bid to buy the team that is not for sale but which NBA commissioner Adam Silver has forecast will soon be, because he’s that confident he can line up three-quarters of team owners needed to vote to force Sterling to sell.
OWN Renews ‘Raising Whitley’ For Second Season, Orders Additional Episodes Of ‘Deion’s Family Playbook’
OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network is re-upping Saturday night docu-series Raising Whitley for a second season and is ordering more episodes of Deion’s Family Playbook. Raising Whitley, from Pilgrim Studios, follows actress and comedienne Kym Whitley and her collective of friends – whom she calls “The Village” – as they attempt to do something none of them has ever done before – raise a child together. It hit a season high with its finale episode on March 8 with a .72 rating in the key demo of women 25-54 and 782,000 total viewers. Deion’s Family Playbook, which follows former pro athlete Deion Sanders, has averaged a .64 rating for women 25-54 and 716,000 total viewers. That makes it the highest-rated first season to date of a series among all docu-series in network history. Deion’s Family Playbook is produced by Edmonds Entertainment, Prime Time Media Ventures and Rogue Atlas Productions in association with Lionsgate Television.
Jimmy Fallon got Lindsay Lohan first — but David Letterman got her best when he turned her visit to his CBS late-night program into a sparring match with Oprah Winfrey, aka Lohan’s life coach/reality-series producer. In the segment taped today for tonight’s show (see the clip below), Lohan is the one who first said, “Should we call Oprah?” while she and Dave were talking. As befits the importance of the occasion — Lohan’s OWN ratings are taking a tumble, with most recently episode scoring only 390,000 viewers — the child-star-turned-adult-actress-train-wreck is dressed as a bedazzled baby-grand piano. Dave responds, grumpily, “No, we’re not.” This back and forth continued for a while — Lohan staunchly pro-Oprah-calling, Dave steadfastly anti-Oprah-calling, until the call is finally made. Raise your hand if you too thought all along that would be the outcome.
Dave starts off strong, throwing Oprah off by using another voice. “Who is this?” she asks dubiously, growing even frostier when he says he’s Lohan’s assistant — presumably because Oprah doesn’t take calls from assistants. “It’s Dave, Oprah,” Letterman cackles. “Oh my God – Very good, Dave!” Winfrey says, graciously conceding the point, adding, “The David Letterman who’s retiring?”
They prattle on merrily for a brief while; Dave asks Oprah how she thinks Lohan is doing now that she has completed the latest rehab stint at the heart of her OWN reality series. “I think she’s doing OK, what do you think?” Oprah says, noncommittally, not wanting to give away the ending of the series by pronouncing Lohan healed. “I loved her since she was 6 years old, Letterman responds, only slightly creepily.
This was a subtle contrast to last year when the company also highlighted scripted fare and trotted out a parade of celebrities including Mariel Hemingway, Morgan Freeman, William Hurt, LaToya Jackson, and NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon. Filmmaker Ron Howard was perhaps the biggest new name showing up this year: He told Discovery advertisers that New Form — the online content production venture he and Brian Grazer are launching with the pay TV company — expects to “generate great scripted programming for today’s digital viewers.” They’re already weighing “several series” as they delve into “shortform content and all its possibilities.” Howard also intends to encourage other creative types to “bring their talent to New Form.” Oprah Winfrey returned, of course, to promote OWN. With its recent ratings success, “no one is happier than we are right now about what is happening to OWN.” She says the network is heading toward its “next evolution” with its first original scripted movie with Toni Braxton playing legendary studio singer Darlene Love, the focus of the Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet From Stardom. She also brought out Tyler Perry for a second year; he talked up his soap opera The Haves And The Have Nots.
Related: Discovery Channel Unveils New Slate
OWN Orders ‘Belief’ Series That Explores Search For Meaning & First TV Film Starring Toni Braxton As Darlene Love, Picks Up More Tyler Perry, Sets Octavia Spencer Mini
OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network announced today six-time Grammy-winning artist and actress Toni Braxton is set to star as Darlene Love in the network’s first scripted TV film My Name Is Love: The Darlene Love Story. In addition, superstar Justin Timberlake will kick off a star-studded new season of Oprah’s Master Class on May 11, and Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer will star in a two-night event mini-series Tulsa (working title) currently in development.
The network also announced today a groundbreaking seven-part television event Belief presented by Oprah Winfrey, which explores humankind’s search for meaning and connection. Also, Tyler Perry’s popular drama series The Haves And The Have Nots and previously announced new series Single Moms Club (working title) each have received 20-episode orders. Here’s a look at the shows:
Oprah Winfrey is set to sell her Harpo Studios to Chicago developer Sterling Bay after putting the complex up for sale months ago. A lease-back agreement will keep Winfrey’s media company on the site for two more years as part of the pact, which will take effect within 30 days. Winfrey first established her namesake studio in 1990 anchored by her talk program The Oprah Winfrey Show but ended the series in 2011 to start OWN Network. Harpo Studios currently employs over 200 in Chicago. “We have entered into a purchasing agreement with Sterling Bay for the four-building Harpo Studios Campus in Chicago’s West Loop. The property will be leased back to Harpo for two years and the studio will continue to produce programming for OWN,” a Harpo spokesperson confirmed in a statement.
EXCLUSIVE: For years, I’ve been writing about all the futility involved in attempts to bring the life of iconic civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr to the screen. So here’s a big one. I’m hearing that David Simon, the architect of the HBO series The Wire, Homicide and most recently Treme, will spearhead the HBO six-hour miniseries adaptation of America: In The King Years, based on the celebrated book trilogy by Pulitzer Prize-winner Taylor Branch. Just as will happen with the Ava DuVernay-directed Selma, Oprah Winfrey will be backing this project as well in a producing capacity.
Winfrey’s Harpo banner originally set up the three books at HBO in 2010 with the plan that it would be overseen by The Kentucky Cycle playwright Robert Schenkkan. While I’ve been trying to confirm the Simon part to no avail at HBO for weeks, I’m told reliably that Simon has assured Branch that he is taking on the project, which instantly becomes a beachhead project for HBO, covering King and his relationships with Lyndon Johnson, John F and Robert Kennedy, as well as the freedom rides, the Birmingham and Selma campaigns, and the poor people’s march on Washington that he was organizing when he was killed in Memphis. It is the perfect venue to tell the story of King’s long struggle.
I’ve heard that Simon will write at least the first episode, as well as the bible for the entire mini. He and Treme co-creator Eric Overmyer will see the entire mini through completion. This is a broad canvas, spanning Branch’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Parting The Waters, as well as Pillar Of Fire and At Canaan’s Edge.
Lindsay is premiering this Sunday at 10 PM, and OWN has unveiled the 2-minute promo that TV critics attending Winter TV Press Tour 2014 got to see in January. Last July, Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network scored a big one when it signed train-wreck Lindsay Lohan to an eight-episode docu-series following her as she tried to stay sober and re-launch her career after a court-ordered rehab stint; it was part of a deal that also included Lohan’s post-rehab interview special on Oprah’s Next Chapter. The docu-series, directed by filmmaker Amy Rice (By The People: The Election of Barack Obama ), taped in August.
“There’s nothing left in having a drink for me. There’s no party I haven’t gone to, nobody I haven’t hung out with, no situation I haven’t been exposed to,” 27-year-old Lohan tells the camera as she swans here and there.
EXCLUSIVE: Big news on the MLK movie front. Paramount is in final negotiations to acquire domestic distribution rights to Selma, a feature drama about Martin Luther King‘s 1965 landmark voting rights campaign regarded as the peak of the civil rights movement, and none other than Oprah Winfrey has boarded the project as producer. Paramount is tying down U.S. and Canadian distribution rights to the film. Ava DuVernay, who came aboard the project in July, rewrote the original script by Paul Webb and slipped it to Winfrey, who sparked to DuVernay’s rewrite. We’ve been waiting for a strong cinematic tribute to the iconic civil rights leader, and this remarkably becomes the second MLK project that Winfrey is involved with. Her Harpo also is behind a seven-part HBO miniseries America: In the King Years. Selma is on a much faster track. The plan is to get rolling in front of cameras as soon as possible. Lining up a domestic deal and a name of Winfrey’s caliber were key to getting the ball rolling, and when the deal makes production is expected to start right away. Pathe UK, Brad Pitt’s Plan B and Christian Colson are already aboard as producers.
Winfrey’s presence both on and off the screen was a big reason Lee Daniels’ The Butler traveled so well overseas. The Butler has grossed $167.7 million to date — more than $50M of that internationally. This gives Selma a leg up on the other two major features that are percolating. Oliver Stone last month saw a script rewrite on his MLK biopic rejected by DreamWorks and Warner Bros, and it caused him to back out of the project. Meanwhile, Paul Greengrass still isn’t ready to move on his biopic Memphis that he plans to make with Scott Rudin.
Oprah Winfrey will be honoring Nelson Mandela with a tribute during the 45th NAACP Image Awards, the NAACP and TV One announced today. That news came along with a list of the second group of presenters confirmed to participate at the February 22 awards. Idris Elba, Vin Diesel, Terry Crews, Nia Long, Naomie Harris, Morris Chestnut, Chadwick Boseman, Tyrese Gibson, Ed Asner, and Ben Vereen will join previously announced Lupita Nyong’o, Tyler Perry, Michael Ealy, Tony Goldwyn, Arsenio Hall, Regina Hall, Octavia Spencer, Archie Panjabi, Dennis Haysbert, Rickey Smiley, Nicole Beharie, and Lou Gossett Jr. Anthony Anderson hosts the awards, which will be broadcast live from the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on February 22 at 9 PM/6 PM ET/PT on TV One.
Oprah Winfrey — Main Stem star? The multihyphenate might be adding another line to her resume as she’s in talks to make her Broadway acting debut in a revival of ‘Night, Mother, The New York Times reports. The TV legend and OWN founder would star opposite Tony winner Audra McDonald in a new production to be helmed by Broadway veteran George C. Wolfe that’s targeting the 2015-16 season. Marsha Norman’s Pulitzer-winning drama about a woman trying to persuade her daughter not to commit suicide premiered in 1983, earning four Tony noms including best play. It had a brief revival in the mid-2000s. Winfrey, whose only Broadway experience is as a producer of the 2005-08 show The Color Purple, returned to acting after a long layoff in last year’s Lee Daniels’ The Butler.
A big part of Hollywood woke up early this morning to Oscar dreams of getting an Academy Awards nomination. Some like 12 Years A Slave for Best Picture, Dallas Buyers Club’s Matthew McConaughey and Gravity‘s Sandra Bullock for Best Actress were a lock. Unfortunately, for some others, they’d barely wiped the sleep out of their eyes before there was nothing to do but go back to bed in disappointment at having not made the cut. Once again, the Academy proved there’s still a wild card factor to who will and won’t get a nomination. Having said that, after all the campaigning, all the encouraging words and all the hopes, even against the odds, it still sucks to be one of those left holding a losing hand. Here’s some of the deserving actors, directors and films who were overlooked in today’s nominations announcement by AMPAS President Cheryl Boone Isaacs and Thor himself Chris Hemsworth:
Oprah Winfrey – The former talk show queen returned to the big screen with Lee Daniels’ The Butler in a stellar performance after a 15-year absence and the Academy negates her? The SAG Awards, the BAFTAs and the Critics Choice Awards all gave Oprah a nomination for her role as boozy Gloria Gaines, the Butler’s wife, but not the Academy? What are they drinking over there?
Inside Llewyn Davis - The folksy Coen brothers’ film didn’t get a lot of love from the Guilds but the Grand Prix winner at last year’s Cannes Film Festival certainly did warrant one of the 10 possible Best Picture spots.
Robert Redford – He didn’t say a lot in All Is Lost but as an old man battling the sea and a lot more, the Sundance founder spoke volumes in the J.C. Chandor-helmed pic. He won a Gotham Award, a New York Film Critics Circle Award and got an Independent Spirit nomination in the process. However, 40 years after Redford last was nominated for Best Actor for The Sting, that all obviously fell on deaf ears with Academy members.
Fruitvale Station – Bursting out of last year’s Sundance Film Festival, this remarkable debut by director Ryan Coogler of the last day of Oscar Grant III on January 1, 2009 was picked up by the Weinstein Company and found fans everywhere – including the White House. Yet nothing for Coolger, nothing for star Michael B. Jordan and nothing for the film – that’s just a crime.
Tom Hanks – Maybe there is a limit to how many Oscars one man can have but the actor’s performance in Captain Phillips as the taken hostage merchant mariner was certainly more than sea worthy of a nom today.
Related: OSCARS: Nominations By Picture
Emma Thompson – Not even a spoon full of sugar will help this bitter pill go down. Saving Mr. Banks was Ms. Thompson’s film. Her turn as the difficult, to say the least, Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers should have seen her as one of the ladies getting that nomination today.
August: Osage County - Yes Meryl Streep got her 18th Oscar nomination for her role as the pill popping sharp tongued widow but there was no Best Picture nor Best Adapted Screenplay for August: Osage County. Some people might not like the truth telling, but those oversights are just plain wrong.
Daniel Brühl – The German actor’s performance as Formula 1 ace Niki Lauda in Ron Howard’s Rush picked up Golden Globes, BAFTA and SAG Awards nominations for Best Supporting Actor. Sure he lost out to Jared Leto at Sunday’s GG ceremony but the Academy didn’t even put him on the track today.
Lee Daniels’ The Butler – Coming out in the year of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the hit White House-based Civil Rights drama had a story for our times as well as strong performances from Forrest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey. Maybe the last film to be produced by Laura Ziskin was too epic, maybe it was too black or maybe the dust-up the Weinstein Company had with Warner Bros and the MPAA over the initial The Butler title rubbed some people the wrong way but the powerful pic deserved better.
LOS ANGELES (Jan. 14, 2014) – Ben Affleck, Sasha Alexander, Don Cheadle, Jennifer Garner, Clark Gregg, Tom Hanks, Jared Leto, Matthew McConaughey, Kevin Spacey, Kerry Washington, Forest Whitaker, and Oprah Winfrey will be presenters at the 20th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards®, Executive Producer/Director Jeff Margolis and Executive Producer Kathy Connell announced today.
At the Golden Globes nomination press conference at the Beverly Hilton this morning, a lot of the talk wasn’t so much about who got nominated but who didn’t. I’m talking about you, Oprah! The star of stars didn’t make the cut and won’t be walking that red carpet (at least as a supporting actress nominee). I thought she was powerful enough just to call in and order one of these things. But Winfrey, along with everyone else associated with Lee Daniels’ The Butler, was snubbed big time. Yesterday, the Weinstein Company’s late summer hit had scored big at the SAG awards with three nominations, including one for Winfrey, and appeared to be on the rebound after being left off the AFI top 10 list Monday. But the awards-season gods giveth and then they taketh away. Conversely, yesterday’s big snubee at SAG, The Wolf Of Wall Street, saw its fortunes improve with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association naming it a nominee for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical and one for Leonardo DiCaprio, a perennial Globe favorite gaining his 10th nomination (he won in 2004 for The Aviator).
Other than Oprah (unfairly in my opinion) missing out in supporting (Jennifer Lawrence, Julia Roberts, Lupita Nyong’o, June Squibb and a surprise nod for Blue Jasmine’s Sally Hawkins made the grade there), there weren’t many jaw-dropping surprises in film (TV was another matter entirely – sorry Claire Danes). That is unless you think Ron Howard’s Rush getting a Best Motion Picture Drama slot over the likes of Butler and Saving Mr. Banks (which, as at SAG, received only one nod for star Emma Thompson) is a stunner. Hate to say I TOLDJA , but I predicted that in this column yesterday. I have spoken to several HFPA members over the past few weeks and nearly every one of them brought up that film’s name as a favorite. Although the independently-produced Universal release didn’t do well at the box office in the U.S., it has great international appeal being a European-set film about the 1970′s rivalry between Britain’s James Hunt and Austrian Niki Lauda (played by Daniel Bruhl who grabbed a supporting actor nod today). The HFPA is an organization made up of international journalists, and the film held a special appeal for them.
Oprah Winfrey will receive the festival‘s Montecito Award for her performance in Lee Daniels’ The Butler and a celebration of her overall career. The Tribute to Winfrey is set for February 5 at the Arlington Theatre. Previous recipients of the award, given in recognition of a performer who has given a series of classic and standout performances, has gone to the likes of Daniel Day-Lewis, Geoffrey Rush, Julianne Moore, Kate Winslet, Javier Bardem, Naomi Watts and Annette Bening. Winfrey’s most recent work includes her moving portrayal of supportive wife Gloria Gaines in Lee Daniels’ The Butler. The historical drama stars Forest Whitaker as a White House butler who served seven American presidents over three decades. “Ms. Winfrey, the actress, inhabits Gloria Gaines with such gusto – she makes you forget Oprah the impresario,” says SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling. “Her performance is career-defining and reason to rejoice.” The festival runs January 30-February 9.