The Critics: Oprah's Most Captive Audience Ever

If you have a captive audience at TCA, does that mean you will win big on TV? Critics are important in getting the word out about shows and networks across the country, and TV companies value their mojo enough to set up shop and woo them twice a year at press tour. These are largely predictable affairs, but by all accounts the winter press tour currently underway was sure to be different.

When I arrived at the Langham Hotel five hours before the scheduled Jan. 6 start of the OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network panel session parking was filled up - the valets were directing people to park in the neighborhood, which already was also filled up. (Note to Ben Grossman: Yes, there will probably be a parking ticket I’ll try to sneak into my expenses.) And we all know the long-held reverence for Oprah and her brand of TV. Reality producer Mark Burnett, who is exec producing “Your OWN Show,” underlined it on his panel, saying he would have ridden a unicycle naked and backward if she asked him to.

What I could not have imagined was what would actually happen during her Q&A session. Oprah set a record - for the longest answer ever given in a TCA session! In her 50-minute appearance, the packed room of critics asked seven questions. One answer lasted nearly 25 minutes (B&C Editorial Assistant Andrea Domanick clocked it on her tape recorder). The next question yielded a more than 18 minute answer.

Do not get me wrong — the reverence remains clear. The room was rapt as she joked about being surprised how much she loved commercials once she saw them on her very OWN network and talked about the revelatory week, her thoughts on spirituality and her regrets about referring to her syndicated show as “change your life TV.” (Tom Umstead, of B&C sister pub Multichannel News has more on what she said here) Pins coulda dropped - the only interruptions were cell phone rings, which were quickly side-buttoned (mine included). One critic actually asked Oprah permission if she could sit down mid-way through the answer to the critic’s question. “Yes!” Oprah exclaimed, then added, “Thanks for asking.”

She “OWN”-ed the room. (Yeah, pun intended.)

But does that mean the appearance was a hit? As Oprah gave her first long answer, a conversation built on Twitter around not what she was actually saying - but how long she was saying it.

Conversation of any kind is generally a good thing for a new launch for the sake of raising it in people’s consciousness (just before the New Year I have to confess Oprah showed up in my dream for the first time in my life–the marketing got through to me!) A selection of representative tweets that flowed out of the Oprah Q&A at TCA follow–and they were vastly about the length of her answers. So, B&C readers, what’s your OWN take: TCA win, lose or draw?

@hitfixdaniel From what I can tell, Oprah has talked for 20 minutes straight about why we aren’t getting cars. So wise… #oprah

@sepinwall My laptop battery has recharged itself by 70% during the Oprah filibuster.

@sepinwall Reporter asks Oprah a question she says she’s never been asked before. She pauses a moment, then begins 10-minutes-and-counting monologue.

@BastardMachine Oh, for the love of God, YOU’VE GOT YOUR OWN NETWORK. Let us ask a question!

@rcatlin Heard Oprah say “I will never be on 25 years!” Could be talking about her current TCA appearance.

@writerchica Every day, #Oprah talks to 700 people. Do you think they get a word in? #TCA

@ShawnRyanTV Can someone give me an official time for Oprah’s monologue at #TCA? I need to know what I’m looking to beat next Tuesday.

@greghernandez I loved this Oprah line during her 25 minute answer: “I can’t remember what I’ve said or haven’t at this point.” #tca #OWN #oprah

For more TCA winter press tour coverage, click here

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