“Pop culture is in a state of emergency!”
That is what Your OWN Show: Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star finalist Ryan O’Connor declared to LA TV Insider Examiner during a phone interview earlier today. And don’t we know it?? But don’t worry; O’Connor has plans to rectify that, with a little help from his new pal Oprah Winfrey.
In a world where the rich, quality writing of something like Terriers can be ignored for the likes of vapid, cringe-inducing Jersey Shore, we personally spend as much time as we can pumping up the shows we feel actually enrich viewing experiences and otherwise “inspire and uplift.” We are all about take-away television, for which Oprah, herself, is known, and soon O’Connor will be, too.
“I love musical theatre, and I love TV, and keeping that balance together is what my plan is for the rest of my life and the rest of my career,” he told us, noting that of course he has been much heavier into television of late, with his time on the Oprah Winfrey Network.
His plan for his own show, should he take home the win, therefore, is to get back to his roots and his inspirations. He wants an old-school, non-formulaic variety show in the vein of The Carol Burnett Show: one guest per show who will come on and be involved in song, sketch, and interview segments.
“My show– the dream format would be opening with me, and instead of an opening monologue, I would do an opening number. Very pop culture-y, very current, a brand new opening number every week. And then introduce a guest with a sketch or a song, and then a set interview in the middle, some on the street stuff, SNL digital short-y stuff, but also packages that are what’s going on in the world of pop culture. A very combo platter; a very true look at what a variety show is!” O’Connor pitched.
Sign us up! That is exactly the kind of show LA TV Insider Examiner would want if we had any interest in being in front of the camera. And because of our deep love of all things pop culture, we hope O’Connor gets to make some incarnation of his show, whether or not he ultimately wins the contract with Oprah. After all, in last week’s episode, O’Connor did fall into the bottom two after the makeover challenge.
He admitted that was a terrifying feeling– to know you could go home in an instant and have your dream of a show be shut down before it even really gets going– but he still pointed to it as his favorite challenge of the experience nonetheless.
“The Vera Wang makeover challenge was incredible. Barbara, who was the woman we made over, still to this day we talk on Facebook almost every day. We changed her life. In the middle of this insane competition…we changed someone’s life, and that’s a surprise in itself,” O’Connor pointed out. “That’s the kind of thing that you see people like Oprah and Ellen and Rosie, back in the day, do and it’s incredible, but when you are given that opportunity [too], it’s really it’s own reward.”
“I did feel pretty good because when you go into the bottom two, you do an interview with the guest mentor,” he continued. “So I did feel pretty good going into interviewing Vera Wang because I happen to know a little bit about her, and I was genuinely excited to interview her…It’s going to show in the interview if you don’t care about the person you’re interviewing.”
Again, don’t we know it!
Furthermore, though, some of the other finalists don’t have interview-centric-show ideas, so being put one-on-one with a person, in the face of elimination would be more nerve-wracking than a chance to shine. The ten who started when the reality competition began two weeks ago were a hodgepodge of cooking programs, lifestyle programs, and straight interview programs. They were put into teams– the women versus the men– from the very first minutes of episode one, and each week they must work together towards creating the better programming sample.
“It’s funny because when I first started the show, I was kind of like ‘Oh I wish it was more individual driven, like Project Runway style, where we have individual challenges each week’,” O’Connor admitted. “But after shooting the show and watching Oprah behind the scenes, you really do realize it is a team effort.”
Being in a team, though, can sometimes cause certain personalities to shine brighter (and let’s face it, louder) than others’.
“Sometimes [Nancy O’Dell and Carson Kressley] are being put in the position of comparing apples to oranges, and it’s a tough call. But I think at the end of the day, I do think good TV is good TV and judging who is going to make better television, it’s possible. I think the judges and the guest mentors had to look at the contestants as if they were programming the Oprah Winfrey Network,” O’Connor offered.
In other words, which show and which personality is there a place for in the line-up? Who is bringing something to the table (or to the screen) that no one else in our company thus far is. It’s a common issue for networks to consider, but the Oprah Winfrey Network has one added challenge: they are looking for “mindful” programming.
O’Connor knows that kind of programming well. He is a self-proclaimed lifelong Oprah fan (“Fan is an understatement!” he said), who Tweeted about two years ago: “If someone would just create an American Idol for talk show hosts, that would be amazing.”
Well, maybe The Secret really does work because two years later, in May, Oprah announced the same concept. Anyone could send in video auditions to be considered as a finalist on Your Own Show, and O’Connor, who was just about to embark on his national tour of his one-man show, “Ryan O’Connor Eats His Feelings,” knew he had to find a way to enter.
Within that one-man show, O’Connor sings a number about Lady O herself and about how he felt she had to have him on her show before the end of her twenty-fifth season. It’s been in the show since long before O’Connor got cast on the OWN Network. It really was kismet, you guys!!
“It’s kind of funny; I feel like I went on a real Oprah journey,” O’Connor shared. “Nashville is where Oprah grew up and got her start in television, and that’s where I got my first call that I was being considered to be a finalist…and then I went to Chicago, and I was in Chicago for a week, kind of nervously waiting for this call but also having to go on with this tour, and my fiance and I went to Harpo. I had never been there, but I was like ‘I have to go to Harpo and see it!'”
O’Connor got his picture taken in front of Harpo Studios and then two hours later got the call that he was officially in the finals round of Your Own Show contestants. It would still be an intense round of meetings and interviews and being put in front of Mark Burnett and the whole producing team before O’Connor ultimately made it to the stage as one of ten, but it all seemed to come together naturally.
This Thursday right here in Los Angeles, you can catch O’Connor in his first post-Oprah performance of his one-man show. And yes, he is leaving in his big musical tribute to the woman (and perhaps soon-to-be boss) herself.
“I’m trying out this new format where I sort of talk about how the song got me on the show,” he teased. “It’s very meta, sort of show within the show. It’s going to be really fun!”
The rest of the show is O’Connor’s anecdotal journey as a self-described compulsive over-eater. True to the eclectic format that his television show would be, O’Connor on stage is a mix of musical numbers and honest, frank discussion pieces, too, and definitely worth a night out to witness before he gets too busy or too famous to have time to produce another run!
And you can still see O’Connor battling it out for his chance at a six-week run on the OWN Network when Your OWN Show airs every Friday night at 9pm. In Los Angeles that’s channel 219, so set your DVRs and tune in!