Oprah looks for next TV star, develops shows with Cat Cora and Carson Kressley
Thousands of people want to star in a show on OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, and two reality series veterans -- Carson Kressley and Cat Cora -- are likely to end up there after the channel launches in January.
More than 1,500 TV-host wannabes showed up in suburban New York this past weekend to audition for "Your Own Show: Oprah's Search for the Next TV Star." There are 2,600 online entries so far, which have logged a whopping 26 million votes, and three more open casting calls. Hopefuls in Los Angeles get their turn on June 19 in Laguna Nigel.
Meanwhile, Kressley and Cora, who already have hit TV shows under their belts, are working on makeover-style series for OWN. Former Iron Chef Cora, along with producer Shed Media, will build a show around doling out healthy cooking and eating advice to harried families. OWN has ordered a pilot of the yet-to-be-named series, the first food-related show to be confirmed by the network, though producers and talent in the Hollywood community have said OWN's feelers are out looking for other culinary projects. Kressley, who hosts ABC's "True Beauty," is developing a makeover show that is expected to get a pilot order.
The network has ordered a pilot of a third program, "Confrontation: The Conversation," based on a mediation program, which will put crime victims and perpetrators together to work toward closure.
So far OWN, which has revealed few concrete details about its on-air look or schedule, has picked up 16 shows targeted at followers of the Oprah "live your best life" mantra. Some of the projects, such as "Your Own Show," will revolve around ordinary people doing extraordinary things and Oprah's penchant for discovering and nurturing new talent.
The network's centerpiece eventually will be "Oprah's Next Chapter," a one-hour series starring Winfrey that goes into production next summer and will air sometime in fall 2011. Before that, "Behind the Scenes: The Oprah Show Final Season," will give viewers an insider peek into the end of Oprah's 25-year-old syndicated phenom. It will start shooting in late summer/early fall 2010.
Some of those vying to be part of "Your Own Show," produced with reality maven Mark Burnett, are chefs and food experts. They're also talk-show-hosts-in-waiting, stylists, designers, health and fitness gurus and more (there's a "wild card" category for those who defy classification).
The network will bring finalists from the open casting calls and winners of the online voting to L.A. (Producers will watch all the digital entries, according to network executives, and could pluck out competitors who didn't amass a big popular vote.) After all the whittling, 10 finalists will take part in the "host boot camp" show, itself a contest to see who'll be left standing at the end. That person will get an OWN show.
OWN, taking up Discovery Health's spot on the dial, launches Jan. 1.
-- T.L. Stanley
Photo: Carson Kressley. Credit: Lisa Maree Williams / Getty Images