Oprah welcomes Palin to woo back viewers
Oprah Winfrey, on a campaign to climb back from last season's ratings slump (and, some say, to make sure her syndicated talk show goes out on top) is going to try to kiss and make up with conservative viewers Monday afternoon, when Sarah Palin is her guest on her syndicated talk show.
You may have noticed that the appearance by the former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential candidate is happening smack dab in the middle of the November ratings derby.
It's also the day before Palin's new book, "Going Rogue: An American Life," is scheduled to hit bookstores.
It's Palin's first interview about the book but, far more important to Oprah, it's the first time the daytime diva and Palin will have met.
Oprah's camp has been teasing the heck out of the interview since late last week, when her Harpo production company released clips from the sitdown - which hopefully, are the most boring bits from the interview.
In one such clip Oprah wonders whether Levi Johnston, father of Palin's grandson, will be invited to Thanksgiving dinner, and Palin goes into full "it's lovely to think he would ever even consider such a thing/he needs to know that he is loved/he has the most beautiful child" mode:
"We don't have to keep going down this road of controversy and drama all the time - we're not really into the drama." said the woman who suddenly, mysteriously, held a news conference on the eve of the Independence Day holiday to announce she was resigning as Governor of Alaska to protect her family and escape ethics probes that she said have hampered her ability to govern and drained her family finances.
In another clip, Oprah asks whether Palin's breathtakingly bad interview with CBS News on-air talent Katie Couric was "a seminal defining moment for you?"
"The campaign said 'Right on! Good! You're showing your independence'....and, of course, I'm thinking 'If you thought that was a good interview I don't know what a bad interview was!'," she told Oprah, who'd dressed in demure black for the occasion.
Monday's interview is not just another show booking for Oprah. She's going whole hog this season to try to recover from the ratings tumble she took last season when her audience slid to under 7 million viewers. And, during one awful week in July, "The Oprah Winfrey Show" suffered its smallest ratings since its debut way back in 1985.
Industry navel gazers speculated Oprah had turned off some of her conservative viewers -- or, more accurately, they had turned her off -- when she not only endorsed then presidential candidate Barack Obama but even campaigned for him. (Palin, of course, was the running mate of President Obama's rival, Sen. John McCain.)
It was the first time Oprah had stripped off her apolitical veneer and publicly endorsed a political candidate. At the time, Oprah told CNN's Larry King she did it because "what [Obama] stands for" was "worth me going out on a limb for."
And her ratings took a tumble, though hers was not the only syndicated show to lose audience last season and she still managed to wind up at the top of the syndication heap at season's end.
Even so, Oprah has largely abandoned her whole aspirational programming mantra this season and gone in for the more purely commercial - like Oprah's gag-inducing Karaoke Challenge that just wrapped.
And who can forget Oprah's longest-two-day-interview-ever with Whitney Houston in mid-September that kicked off Houston's latest comeback attempt; Oprah's deliciously detailed interview with Erin Andrews, the ESPN reporter who was unknowingly videotaped nude in a hotel room by some stalker guy; and her highly touted, things-could-get-rough, face-to-face meeting between former world champion boxers Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield -- their first meeting since Tyson bit off part of Holyfield's ear during a 1997 WBA heavyweight title fight.
Oprah's under a lot of pressure to make news and goose ratings on her show, some say, because the prevailing wisdom is that she will announce by the end of this year she's ending her syndicated talker in the fall of 2011 to focus her attention on the much delayed Oprah Winfrey Network cable net, in which she is partnered with Silver Spring-based Discovery Communications. Oprah has been coy about exactly what she's going to announce and when, but Discovery suits reportedly are putting the squeeze on her to stop syndicating her talk show and move it to OWN, even though that network will only be available initially in about 70 million homes, while in syndication she has more than 100 million homes at her fingertips.
And, in re who stands to gain the most with Monday's interview: Palin's book is No. 1 Monday on Amazon.com's bestseller list. Meanwhile, "Say You're One of Them," a collection of short stories by Nigerian Uwem Akpan -- the latest selection by Oprah's Book Club -- was ranked No. 47. We rest our case.
Palin's book plugging will continue Tuesday morning, when ABC News unveils the first bits of Babs' Wawa's five-part - yes, that's right, five - chat with the former GOP vice presidential candidate about this and that. That interview will begin to unspool Tuesday on "Good Morning America" and will then continue that same night on "Nightline" followed by "GMA" Wednesday morning. You'll have to wait for Friday's "20/20" for the final installment of Babs-does-Sarah.
Lisa de Moraes
November 16, 2009; 1:05 PM ET
Categories: TV News
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