Ever wonder what Tuesdays with Morrie would have been like with full frontal nudity and swearing? We may never know, but it will be interesting to see see what else comes of the production deal announced yesterday between HBO and Oprah Winfrey’s production company, Harpo.
In one sense, it’s an unlikely match. Particularly in TV, Harpo was mainly known for producing extremely successful middlebrow TV movies for ABC, like the adaptations of Morrie and other bludgeons of heartwarming life lessons from Mitch Albom. Not exactly evidence of an HBO sensibility.
On the other hand, Harpo’s other stock-in-trade has been adaptations of African American literary fiction, including Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and, for the movies, Toni Morrison’s Beloved. This does much more closely fit an area HBO (and to a lesser extent recently Showtime) has worked in, recently with its film version of Lackawanna Blues.
Of course, the bottom line is, it’s not TV, it’s… and part of the stated reason for doing the HBO deal instead of returning to ABC is to do projects unrestricted by network content standards and commercial sponsorship. (In the meantime, she continues to plan OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, which will focus on unscripted programming.) So it’s hard to know what the partnership will be like until it actually announces some projects, which for all anyone knows could fall entirely outside the Albom-Morrison axis.
In the meantime, as always, their eyes will be watching Oprah.