Forget a new year. What 2011 is really bringing is a new age of Oprah.
Oprah Winfrey's original cable television channel, OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, will debut in about 85 million homes across America Jan. 1, marking a major step in the media-mogul's career. (Oprah.com includes a "channel finder" to locate OWN in specific areas of the country.)
It won't be Winfrey 24/7. The talk show host with the most has committed to appearing in at least 70 hours of programming in 2011, but the rest of OWN's programming will consist of a cast of characters who share her values and vision. Below, check out the star-studded shows OWN has in store:
Rosie O'Donnell's past talk-show troubles haven't soured her from the circuit. The former moderator of "The View" will return to daytime TV with a show on OWN. "It's an honor and a privilege to work with Oprah Winfrey on her network," O'Donnell said in a joint statement with Winfrey, promising a "fun, uplifting show with Ms. O'Donnell's playful and energetic style." Earlier this month, she told ABCNews.com that she's "thrilled" her show is "going to be on the Oprah Winfrey Network" which "looks to be as amazing as she is."
O'Donnell won't dabble in the typical celebrity interviews. "The show will be about real people and real issues," she said on Oprah.com. "I'll focus on a single topic for one hour, things people deal with every day. Raising children. The education system in America. Autism. Relationships, health, weight, depression—and happy stuff, too, of course. I envision the show being full of love and laughter."
Catching Julia Roberts in action normally involves $7.50 and a bucket of popcorn. But Winfrey convinced the "Eat, Pray, Love" star to take her act to the small screen. Roberts will host and be executive producer of "Extraordinary Moms," a documentary film dedicated to mothers struggling to better their families, for OWN. The network's monthly "Documentary Film Club" will feature a host of celebrity-produced projects. Mariel Hemingway looks at the legacy of suicide in her own family in "Seven Suicides," Gabriel Byrne explores homelessness in Nashville with "Tent City," Goldie Hawn investigates positive psychology in "Searching for Happiness," and Forest Whitaker goes inside a Lousiana prison's hospice wing in "One Last Shot."
While OWN offers a platform for anything-but-ubiquitious documentaries, it also dabbles in a cable TV staple: reality TV. Country crooner Shania Twain stars in "Why Not? With Shania Twain," which will follows her trying to revive her personal and professional life after splitting from her husband, music producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange.
Winfrey's BFF, Gayle King, will get top billing on OWN. She'll host "Gayle King Live!," a TV version of her XM Satellite Radio show. "I don't want to hear, 'Lights, camera, action!'" King said on Oprah.com. "Radio is a very intimate medium, and I want to preserve that, even though I'll be talking to TV viewers now, too. When guests come to my studio, they always say, 'Wow, I feel like it's just you and me!' It's conducive to conversation. That's why I'm not having a studio audience." She wants viewers to call in and contribute, too: "I tell people, 'Put me on your speed dial, because I guarantee there will be something you'll want to weigh in on.'"
Famed reality TV producer Mark Burnett's OWN show stirred scandal months before hitting screens. "Your OWN Show: Oprah's Search for the Next TV Star" came under fire after allegations that Winfrey had rigged voting for the "American Idol"-style search for budding hosts. It turned out spam blogs were to blame for skewed votes in the competition between disabled contestant Zach Anner and schoolteacher Phyllis Tucker-Wicks. On Dec. 30, Winfrey announced the show's ten contestants, including Anner.
Two OWN shows offer a smorgasbord of stars: "Oprah Presents: Master Class" and "Visionaries: Inside the Creative Mind." The first features celebrities dispensing life lessons. Jay-Z, Diane Sawyer, Maya Angelou, Condoleezza Rice, and Simon Cowell are among the luminaries who will appear in the first season of the series. "Visionaries" looks at the minds of modern day artists, including James Cameron, Lady Gaga, will.i.am, and Annie Leibovitz.
Of course, the channel couldn't be complete if Winfrey herself weren't on screen. "Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes," will chronicle Winfrey's wrapping up of her epic daytime talk show She'll also host the aptly titled "Oprah's Next Chapter," a one-hour series in which she'll get out of the studio and see the world, riding her proverbial horse into the sunset.