Winfrey and Perry: A Match Made at OWN

by Gail Choice
Special to the NNPA from Our Weekly

His first dramatic series, “The Haves and Have Nots” premiered May 28. The hourlong drama series became OWN’s most watched premiere show to date. And the comedy-driven “Love Thy Neighbor” premiered the following night, May 29 also breaking records.

It is no secret that OWN is still searching for that loyal audience that will make the network a viewing habit. But is the Tyler Perry brand the answer?

Not everyone was excited to see Perry’s programs on OWN. One woman, Eva Vega, started a petition on Change.org in an effort to get the programming removed, claiming that the filmmaker “perpetuates stereotypes” about the Black community, especially “Love Thy Neighbor.”

“Love Thy Neighbors” centers around Hattie Mae Love who lives in a simple home that she and one of her husbands bought some time ago. Linda, her daughter, splits her time between Hattie’s home, and the apartment she sometimes shares with her on-again, off-again husband, Lionel.

In the first season of this comic tale, Hattie Mae has had enough of grown people living in her house. She puts her foot down and shows the toughest love there is by sending Linda to the door. Linda eventually helps out down at Hattie Mae’s Love Train Diner.

There is a lot of broad humor in this production, Tyler Perry-style, which seems to be what this particular audience likes. But the some folks are just not having it. At press time, 288 people have signed the petition that states, “For decades Oprah Winfrey has used her television show to educate, empower, and uplift people of all races to be better versions of themselves. OWN has committed to be an extension of this work,” the petition reads. However, the petition argues, OWN’s association with Perry tarnishes that legacy.”

Vega continues, “Where it is clear that neither Oprah or Tyler Perry are experts on race and racism, they have also refused to utilize feedback from the conscious Black community and scholars on racism regarding the damage that Tyler Perry and his brand of entertainment perpetuate against the Black community.”

The production, “The Haves and Have Nots,” put you in the “Scandal” frame of mind. “Scandal” is a very hot show on ABC, with a Black female lead, Kerry Washington, who is having a scandalous affair with the president of the United States no less. Perry’s drama is looking to capitalize on the form of drama.

“The Haves and Have Nots” dramatic series follows the complicated dynamics between the rich and powerful Cryer family and the hired help who work in their opulent Savannah, Ga., mansion.

From the outside, the Cryers are the enviable face of success and wealth, but behind the veil, the family’s dysfunction threatens to destroy their world of privilege. Cryer family patriarch Jim Cryer is a powerful judge whose double life, including tawdry affairs with high-priced escorts, puts his family and political ambitions at risk.

One such lust-filled romp landed him in bed with a beautiful Black young woman, who unbeknownst to him happens to be their maid’s daughter. It comes as no surprise that there is bad blood between the mother and daughter, and sparks fly immediately when the two come face to face at a dinner party where the daughter is a guest and the mother is the help. It is drama at its most predictable, but audiences seem to like these kind of goings-on.

Check out the television shows for yourself. Tyler Perry’s “The Haves and Have Nots” air Thursdays at 9 p.m., and “Love Thy Neighbors” Wednesdays at 9 p.m.

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