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Picks and Pans Main: TV

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The Oprah Winfrey Network


There’s no reason Oprah shouldn’t have her own network-her entertainment brand is as clearly defined as Walt Disney’s, and her message of self-improvement finds a perfect match in the reality format. But Rome, even when envisioned by mighty Oprah, is not built in a day. The launch of the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) on Jan. 1 was bland and soft. It tasted like something meant to coddle a New Year’s hangover. The titles she personally introduced include conventional if well-done shows like Searching for…, about a genealogist who helps forge reunions, and a documentary series on the making of Oprah. Forthcoming programs look more promising and capitalize on Winfrey’s genius for celebrity confessional. How can you miss with a show about the royal disaster area known as Fergie, Duchess of York?


Showtime, Jan. 9, 9:30 p.m. ET/PT |


This broadly written showbiz satire at least does right by Matt LeBlanc. Absent from TV since his Friends spinoff Joey ended in 2006, he plays a grayer, slightly desperate version of himself. This LeBlanc, preoccupied with raising money for a restaurant, is recruited to star in the U.S. version of a British sitcom about an acerbic headmaster. To the shock of the show’s married writers (Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig), the role becomes a lovable hockey coach. LeBlanc plays “LeBlanc” as vain, manipulative and essentially charming. It’s a light, clever performance. But Episodes never convinces us this is really Hollywood: I haven’t seen so few cell phones since Mad Men.