Have younger — dare I say, cutting-edge — programming, with young hosts, young producers, young writers and young topics. Young doesn’t have to equal ratchet. (Anybody remember Teen Summit where a young Ananda Lewis was the host who would interview guests like Hillary Clinton and hot entertainers of the time in front of a young studio audience?) Bring in some fresh, youthful content ideas and intermix those with the veterans who are good at what they do and the shows that already do well with the more-senior audience.
Get some diversity. There’s been the argument that Oprah hasn’t included enough people of color, especially in some hot entertainment areas (ie. the multimillion-dollar world of hip hop). I’d love to see an interview with Lil Wayne and the Cash Money empire about their lives and their business or a show where she follows young urban entrepreneurs in their journey to build their businesses from the ground up. Let’s talk about taboo topics more, such as HIV/AIDS among minorities, exploring sexually and the LGBT community, and issues other cultures in America and international deal with that aren’t centered around that “save the world” aesthetic.
Consider more interactive or raw content that is user-generated. We all love the inspirational stories from viewers about how they gave back or how they were able to use one of the tips from the show to improve their lives, but why not, for example, try featuring YouTube stars who cover lifestyle elements in alternative ways? Have a contest to find the next biggest host by utilizing video-centered social media (beyond Facebook and Twitter) and relating to people where they are. Shake things up a bit by including hosts who maybe don’t wear Dockers and Sperrys.
Don’t be afraid of the “ratchet.” Hey, it’s part of life, and to be honest, it equals big ratings. You can’t have the good without the bad, and for some of us, it’s a guilty pleasure and escape. (Even the cardigan-wearing Dockers types sneak a peek at The Real Housewives of Atlanta or Bridezillas.) I think Oprah could be the person to find the perfect balance of offering quality TV along with the ugly side of it and be successful at it. We love Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz, so what’s the harm in adding another Wives or Shore franchise in the mix?
Get back to sitcoms that actually make us almost forget reality TV. Despite what’s been drilled into the hearts and minds of the public, people still like a good, scripted show. We loved Girlfriends, The Cosby Show, Living Single and the like. Who better than Oprah to revive the advent of having that friend in our head (or in real-life) like Toni Childs or Khadijah James?
Loosen up a little more. Now that Oprah’s reached a climax in her career (and I’m sure she could go higher and higher), let’s see more of the side of Oprah that is open to doing things like visiting Marcy Projects with Jay-Z’s Bed-Stuy hood or when she chopped it up with late-night host and comedian Jimmy Kimmel. It made us feel like you were that aunt at the family reunion who is known for snubbing anything that wasn’t designer, but after a few drinks joined everybody in the electric slide.