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Margie Barron

Margie Barron

Friday, 14 January 2011 06:00

Oprah Winfrey is the 'OW' in 'OWN'

   Oprah Winfrey is an unparalleled media mogul. More importantly, she is a sincere and gracious lady who not only deserves all the success she has, she really enjoys it. That's pretty important when you put so much effort into creating a media empire.
   I enjoyed the chance to talk with Oprah less than a week after she launched OWN, the new Oprah Winfrey Network. At the winter press tour for the Television Critics Association at the Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena, she was telling everyone how proud she is to be the 'OW' in 'OWN.' It has exceeded her expectations already, with ratings and advertising. And there are remarkable reports that the network will turn a profit its first year. That would be a miracle in broadcasting these days. But if anyone can do it, Oprah can.
   OWN is a joint venture between Winfrey's Harpo, Inc. and Discovery Communications. It is a multi-platform media company designed to entertain, inform, and inspire people to live their best lives. OWN debuted on January 1, 2011, in approximately 85 million homes. The venture also includes the award-winning digital platform Oprah.com. 
   The secret to OWN's success is in the programing that Oprah wants to present. The new cable channel is packed with lifestyle, educational, and inspiring shows. A total of 22 original series have been announced. It is a mix of original programs, strips, specials, original documentaries, and acquired movies. 
   "The whole network is about encouraging people to live with an open heart. It's about opening yourself to all that is possible," she says.
   What isn't possible is a vacation for Oprah in the near future. Oprah told me that she was under the illusion that she could have a network, and build it, and travel the world, and check in every now and then. She jokes that she now knows the reality of having a network with her name on it, and the time it takes to do it right. That's okay, Oprah says she's enjoying the "absolutely extraordinary journey. I can sit in this place with my name on a network."
   Oprah has a right to be proud and enjoy her success.
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   A popular premium cable destination with great shows featuring impressive production values, major stars, and an industry buzz. It's not HBO, its the Starz network.
   It's easy to understandy why the description of the network sound so much like HBO when you see who is at the helm. Chris Albrecht is president and CEO of Starz, LLC. Among his duties, he's responsible for generating growth for Starz Entertainment, Starz Media and Overture Films. Also Albrecht spent more than 20 years at HBO, with seven years as president of original programming before he became chairman and CEO up until 2007.  His golden years there ushered in acclaimed series such as Sex and the City, The Sopranos, Deadwood, Band of Brothers, and the list goes on, and on.
   And now Albrecht has brought that push for excellence to shows for Starz. Already the Spartacus series, filmed in New Zealand, has had an impact on the television landscape. Upcoming series are Camelot, filmed in Ireland, and Torchwood film in Los Angels and Wales. I got a sneek peek at them, and they are awesome.
   I asked Albrecht about putting his mark on the network, and he told me, "I think that in the collaborative world of film entertainment, what is the most important thing is to put together a team and an opportunity that invites talented people to want to bring their work. Then you try to help give them the necessary resources, and the support, and sometimes the guidance that they require to help realize those visions."
   That's leadership that pays dividends.
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   Cable productions are doing something right.
   Nominations for the 68th annual Golden Globe Awards have been announced and cable TV shows dominated the list of worthy contenders. It was not a surprise that HBO dominated with 12 nominations, followed by Showtime. CBS and Fox were the leaders among the broadcast networks with six nods each for their shows. And AMC, the little cable network that has had the biggest impact in recent years, got some attention for its shows Mad Men and The Walking Dead, both up for Best Drama TV series. And there was a well-deserved Best Actor in a Drama nomination for the three-time Emmy-winning Bryan Cranston in AMC's Breaking Bad.
   The versatile Cranston was nominated for a Golden Globe years ago for his flawless comedic performance in Malcolm in the Middle. But leave it to the cable show to let him shine in a more shocking role. Steve Buscemi for Boardwalk Empire, Michael C. Hall for Dexter, Jon Hamm for Mad Men, and Hugh Laurie for House join the stellar lineup for the Best Actor trophy.
   Boardwalk Empire on HBO was the powerhouse and has a nomination for Best Drama TV series. It is up against Showtime's Dexter, CBS' The Good Wife, and the aforementioned Mad Men and The Walking Dead.
   For Best Comedy or Musical series, the choices are ABC's Modern Family, CBS' The Big Bang Theory, NBC's 30 Rock, Fox's Glee, and two from Showtime, The Big C and Nurse Jackie.
   The nominations in the miniseries/movies category are HBO's The Pacific, Temple Grandin, and You Don't Know Jack; Starz' Pillars of the Earth; and the Sundance Channel's Carlos.
  Of course there are many other nominations for outstanding acting plus all the film categories. And all can be debated. But going over the list, I'd give kudos to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for making some pretty good picks for TV. The Golden Globe Awards air Sunday, January 16 on NBC.
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 If you're going to play a soldier in a film, there's a fellow who says he'll "make damn sure you look like one!" And he has done that for some great Hollywood productions.

Dale Dye is a 21 year veteran of the Marine Corps. He's also a 25 year veteran of Hollywood, and has been a force behind military-themed productions. He came to the Hollywood battlefield in 1985 with a mission to change the way military people were portrayed in war films. He started with Oliver Stone's film Platoon, and has gained respect for his job of bringing a soldier's truth to the stories.

 I admire Dye, although he's been critical of the movie industry for a long time. But I think it's constructive criticism. He says, "It's easy to criticize from the back row. So when i retired from active duty, I realized I had a chance to do something about it. As a former combat officer who's been shot more than once, I figured navigating the trenches in Hollywood would be a simple operation. I was wrong."  The impact he has had in the way soldiers are seen on the screen is impressive. Dye's stamp is on such great military films as Platoon, Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, The Pacific, and others. About 40 films in total, plus television projects.

 He's the go-to-guy for combat films, but Dye says he's on a new mission. He has dedicated himself to finding and promoting books that accurately portray military men and women in life and the service of their country through his literary imprint Warriors Publishing. And his latest book is "Peleliu File." We bet it would make a great movie.
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