Oprah Winfrey’s heirs are already apparent
When Oprah Winfrey announced that she’d wrap up her talk show on Sept. 9, 2011, there were plenty of breathless guesses as to who might be likely to ascend to her throne. Would it be a powerhouse new daytime star like Katie Couric or Sarah Palin? Turns out the outcome won’t be nearly as sexy as those predictions. ”It’s a big change that Oprah is going away, but unless something unbelievable were to happen, she’s going to be replaced by shows already on the air,” say Katz TV Group’s Bill Carroll, who advises local stations about programming. ”Stations don’t take a lot of risks these days. They tend to take a more conventional approach.” And how: Rather than take a chance on a brand-new yakker, many of the stations that carry Winfrey will either expand their local newscasts or go with promising sophomore show Dr. Oz, which last season had the highest syndication debut in seven years (since fellow Winfrey spin-off Dr. Phil in 2002). As for who will succeed Winfrey in terms of cultural significance, the spot appears to be Ellen DeGeneres’ to lose. A study of 4,175 Winfrey watchers that was conducted by the California-based research firm SmithGeiger revealed that DeGeneres would be their first choice to watch after Winfrey’s departure, followed by the news and Dr. Oz. Even Winfrey seemed to indicate that DeGeneres was a worthy successor: She was one of the first people Winfrey gave a heads-up to before announcing plans last November to leave daytime for her cable network OWN. But who knows where Winfrey’s loyalties lie now? Just last week, she closed a deal with Rosie O’Donnell to star in an hour-long talk show on OWN next year. And yep, it’ll air daily in daytime.
— Lynette Rice
Justin Timberlake leads the rush on a new sci-fi movie
The hottest project in town is I’m.mortal, a screenplay from writer-director Andrew Niccol (Gattaca), and young Hollywood is clamoring for roles. The sci-fi thriller is set to star Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried and depicts a future where no one ages past 25. Overpopulation is controlled by allotting time as a currency — when you run out, you die. ”Actors are very drawn to this,” says producer Eric Newman, who just added Inception’s Cillian Murphy. ”It’s an opportunity to look their age but play a character who’s old.” As for the film’s ageless leading man, he says: ”David Fincher’s The Social Network [out Oct. 1] has put Justin into a different category. He’s a serious actor now.”
— Nicole Sperling