OWN has announced that it will be launching a new series, ‘America’s Money Class with Suze Orman’ on Jan. 9. (9:00 p.m. ET). In the six-episode “class,” Orman will be answering financial questions and giving viewers tools and tips on how to survive this sluggish economy. To sweeten the deal, viewers will also get a chance to win up to $50,000 when they take her final exam during the last episode.
This all sounds very… useful. Don’t get me wrong; I think Orman can be great fun, especially when she’s tearing into some dimwit who wants a new boat when he’s underwater on his mortgage. I’m sure this series will have plenty of good information, and you can’t beat fifty grand. But why does it sound like something I’d reluctantly program into my DVR, only to take guilty glimpses at it as I scrolled past it to more interesting fare before finally deleting the whole series with a sigh of relief?
But it seems Oprah Winfrey and her network have decided that a good way to reach the viewers who once watched her syndicated show is by presenting information in a class format. Learn! Grow! Take a quiz! Segments from “Oprah” have now become the fuel behind “Oprah’s Lifeclass,” which mines the old show for new insights and life lessons. You thought the show was just Oprah giving away cars and chatting with John Travolta? Au contraire!
“Lifeclass” finds the deeper meaning in tragic human interest stories, guests pushing their books and stars desperate for five more minutes of fame (hey, John Travolta wasn’t on “Oprah” every week). The show has companion online workbooks and, for those who sign up, a personal online journal space (to advance your healing/growth/sense of Zen/grocery list).
It’s all very positive and uplifting and interactive, and I’m sure people who read self-help books are probably all over it. To me, it all seems a little forced. Here’s a “class” featuring a mom who lost her daughter when she left the kid in the car for eight hours on a hot day (The lesson – slow down! And, I guess, don’t leave your kid in the car.). Here’s Robin Givens talking about her abusive relationship with Mike Tyson (The lesson – love doesn’t hurt. And maybe don’t marry a professional boxer with anger issues). I’m all for recycling, and Winfrey definitely has plenty of material to pillage, but this feels like cold leftovers plopped on fine china being passed off as an elegant meal.
Orman’s class, of course, will be entirely fresh. But still, we’re left with that educational format to make sitting in front of the television feel virtuous and downright enlightening for some and unappealing for others. Considering how little people enjoy pondering their finances (well, at least most people), I’m not sure making them feel like they’re in an freshman economics class will help matters. While Orman has the personality and attitude to be a fun teacher, I have to wonder if there wasn’t a more palatable way to present this information. She could have really maintained much of the same structure — financial exercises, lists of tips and tools, etc. — without slapping the label of “class” on the show.
Though she has fewer bells and whistles on her CNBC show, “The Suze Orman Show,” Orman is surprisingly appealing without frills, screaming at viewers to stop being stupid from a news anchor-type desk. Her “Can I Afford It?” segment serves the purpose of embarrassing those dumb enough to call in (thus, the entertainment factor) and allowing Orman a platform to send her messages about money, usually in a loud voice. I doubt too much screaming will be allowed on the OWN show, and that’s honestly missing out on the real appeal of Orman’s no-nonsense, what-were-you-thinking ranting. But I bet there’s going to be homework! Yay! So, I’m off to program my DVR — but I make no promises as to when I’ll actually tune in, if I ever get around to it.
Will you be watching “America’s Money Class”? Do you prefer programming with a class-type structure?