Oprah OWNs the Airwaves; Announces 'Your OWN Show' Contestants

Linda Sharps
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After more than 9,500 online audition videos, thousands more hopefuls at open casting calls, and more than 143 million votes, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) today announced the finalists for Your OWN Show.

What's OWN, you ask? It's Winfrey's latest media venture, a new cable channel that launches on New Year's Day. Discovery Communications has contributed channel space—OWN will debut in approximately 85 million homes on what is currently the Discovery Health Channel— and has paid more than $110 million in start-up costs for the channel that promises "shows from well-known stars and Winfrey favorites."

(I assume Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, and the Gayle King Show fall under "Winfrey favorites.")

One of the debut series, Your OWN Show, is a reality show produced by Mark Burnett in which ten contestants are picked from obscurity to compete to get their own show. The winner will get a show airing on Winfrey's new cable channel. Judges will include Winfrey's closest colleagues, such as—ugh—Dr. Phil McGraw and Gayle King.

From a network description of Your OWN Show:

"Hosts Nancy O'Dell and Carson Kressley guide the hopefuls through intense challenges designed to see if they have what it takes to have their own show. In each episode, the contestants are mentored by A-list hosts. Dr. Phil, Suze Orman, Gayle King and more will make appearances on the series, bestow knowledge to the contestants and judge the episodes. Challenges will range from booking interviews and researching story ideas to successfully completing a pilot presentation."

The 10 finalists include:

• Zach Anner, of Austin, Texas, a charismatic wheelchair-bound man who wants to make a travel show for people who never thought they could travel.

• Elizabeth Espinosa, a TV news reporter from Los Angeles who wants to share what she's learned in helping raise a younger brother who has learning disabilities.

• Aunt Flora, of Cincinnati, a popular cook who specializes in southern cooking.

• Leigh Koechner, a Valley Village, Calif., a mother of four and the wife of actor David Koechner who wants her show to "have a spin unlike any show out there"

• Kristina Kuzmic-Crocco, of Alhambra, Calif., who runs stickycook.com and aims to demonstrate on her food show that "cooking doesn't have to be perfect as long as it's fun, easy and delicious."

• Ryan O'Connor, of West Hollywood, Calif., who says he wants to be the country's gay best friend. "I want to do sketch comedy, musical acts and have a serious component. If a variety show and a traditional talk show had a baby, that'd be my show."

• Dr. Tony Roach, an Abilene, Texas, minister who dropped out of high school as a teen to live on the streets before getting his doctoral degree in divinity. He wants to "promote his message of self-esteem" to a national audience.

•  Terey Summers, of Phoenix, who lost 170 pounds after her husband's death 3 years ago, is a comedic motivational speaker for youth, and wants to deliver an "Ellen-esque flavor to her talk show."

• Alicia Taylor, of Las Vegas, who started her own mortgage company and says, "From checking accounts to retirement funds and investing, people need a practical and fun show about all things financial, and because I'm an expert, I can help people make sound decisions."

• Eric Warren, of Lawndale, Calif., who has dropped 62 pounds and wants to host a cooking show that has America losing weight along with him.

What do you think of Your OWN Show? I'm not super turned on by the hosts or "mentors," but the premise sounds pretty interesting—and Mark Burnett does tend to have the magic reality touch. I definitely think I'll set my TiVo for this one.

Will you be watching?

Image via Oprah.com

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