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Thursday, January 17, 2013
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Keep Your Eye on … OWN’s ‘Oprah’s Next Chapter’

By Rachel Bennett
Television Editor & Columnist

Every week, Rachel will pick a TV show, actor/actress or storyline you’ll need to watch out for.


When I started this feature, never did I think I’d feature Oprah’s Next Chapter on OWN.

It’s not that Oprah Winfrey’s talk show isn’t good (for someone who loved The Oprah Winfrey Show, it’s a close copy); it’s just that I like to focus more on scripted than unscripted TV.

Yet here we are, and you cannot miss Oprah’s Next Chapter, which airs the first of two parts tomorrow.

This week, Winfrey will feature former professional cyclist Lance Armstrong. Armstrong sat down with Winfrey Monday to discuss, among other topics, doping allegations that have long been made against him as well as the stripping of his seven Tour de France titles.

Why Watch  

Admitting guilt: According to the Associated Press, after years of denying several allegations, Armstrong finally admits to doping during the Tour de France. “The entire interview was difficult,” Winfrey says, adding that Armstrong “did not come clean in the manner that I expected.” She also notes that he was emotional at times, but “’emotional’ doesn’t begin to describe the intensity of the difficulty that I think he experienced in talking about some of these things.” So why would Armstrong admit to doping now, after rebuking reports for more than a decade? In August, the disgraced cyclist was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and slapped with a lifetime ban from the sport by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), but Armstrong could see the ban reduced if he confesses. Despite this, the World Anti-Doping Agency says, “only when Mr. Armstrong makes a full confession under oath — and tells the anti-doping authorities all he knows about doping activities — can any legal and proper process for him to seek any reopening or reconsideration of his lifetime ban commence.”

The rise and fall of a hero: Armstrong became a hero in the late 1990s and early 2000s when he overcame testicular cancer and won seven consecutive Tour de France titles. Despite rumblings he used performance-enhancing drugs, Armstrong always rebuffed them and remained in the clear, eventually founding the cancer charity Livestrong in 1997 and leading it to worldwide success. However, Armstrong’s credibility came strongly into question in 2010, when former teammate Floyd Landis revealed Armstrong doped and influenced his teammates to do so as well. Landis’ allegation eventually led to a 2012 report by the the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), the results of which took away Armstrong’s titles and gave him the cycling ban. USADA chief executive Travis Tygart accused Armstrong of orchestrating, “The most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.” In October 2012, he left Livestrong, and several sponsors abandoned him, including Nike. Armstrong will most likely soon face even more trouble, especially because of his reported admission, as some organizations want him to return money they awarded him for cycling wins.

Watch Winfrey work her magic: There are numerous entertainment journalists these days, but only a few have the gift of seeming like a friend to celebs — digging out their innermost thoughts and secrets — in addition to being an interviewer. Winfrey is one such journalist, and this interview should be a landmark one in the entertainment world. Winfrey even acknowledges how significant her sit-down with, saying it’s “certainly the biggest interview I’ve ever done in terms of its exposure.” Winfrey actually went to great lengths to score her interview with Armstrong, which marks his first public response to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report that led to his downfall. Winfrey and Armstrong first met for lunch in Hawaii, as he initially said he wasn’t ready to speak in public regarding the drug allegations. After meeting, Armstrong changed his mind and agreed to the interview. Following their discussion, Winfrey tweeted, “Just wrapped with @lancearmstrong More than 2 1/2 hours. He came READY!”

Sneak Peeks

• Videos from Winfrey’s appearance on CBS’s CBS This Morning

When to Watch

• The two-part special will air Thursday and Friday at 9 p.m. EST/6 p.m. PST

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