Rest easy, Oprah, Zach Anner is ready and willing to fill your shoes.
In light of her impending retirement from 25 years of talk-show-hosting, Oprah debuted her new network, OWN, on New Years Day. The lineup of shows is filled with Oprah-esque character and Oprah-favorite experts (Drs. Phil and Oz, Suze Orman, and of course her BFF, Gayle King), but if former UT student Zach Anner has anything to do with it, the most entertaining show will be Your OWN Show.
Subtitled, “Oprah’s search for the next TV star,” the show is just that with 10 contestants learning the ropes and vying for their own talk show on Oprah’s network. We first introduced you to Anner back in June when his audition video went viral.
Born with cerebral palsy (“the sexiest of the palsies,” he said), Anner proposed a travel show with advice on what to do when everything goes wrong. His antics and wisecracks made it clear the show would be high on laughs. (Watch his audition video below.)
It drew the attention of singer John Mayer, who promised to record the theme song for Anner’s show if he won. Support for Anner then showed up on blogs by the likes of Time, Entertainment Weekly, New York magazine, and ABC news. Rumors even swirled of Oprah altering votes to give Anner’s biggest competition an edge.
Then Anner and the other top eight finalists from online submissions were sent to California where producers chose one of them to compete with nine people selected from auditions at Kohl’s around the country. The controversy died down, and other funny/cute/weird things stole the Internet’s attention.
That was the last we’d heard of Anner until the final week in 2010 when Oprah announced the 10 finalists that would appear on Your OWN Show. It was to great delight but little surprise that Anner’s name was on the list.
Your OWN Show debuts on OWN tonight, Jan. 7, at 8 Central. The show’s format will mimic that of the Apprentice (Mark Burnett produces both). Split into two groups, the contestants will have to plan and execute a TV segment, and one member of the losing team will be sent home.
Carson Kressley (True Beauty, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy) and Nancy O’Dell (Access Hollywood) serve as hosts and mentors to the contestants. Celebrity guests will also appear, with the first episode featuring Dr. Phil McGraw, who got his first show thanks to Oprah. The queen of talk shows herself will make at least one appearance, too.
There’s no telling whether Anner’s dream of hosting a travel show will come true, but there are no doubts he will win more fans with his quick wit and charm. Certainly, don’t count him out just because of his disability. Oprah, interviewing the finalists on her show last week, asked Anner if he thought he’d be able to keep up with the strenuousness required to host a travel show. “Yeah, man,” he replied, “I’ve got the stamina, man. This is a dream come true. It’s like, basically I’m sitting down all day. It doesn’t take a lot of energy.”
Despite being called “man,” Oprah was all laughs.