How CBS landed Oprah’s Harry-and-Meghan interview


Oprah Winfrey

Q: It seems that Oprah Winfrey has lots of television deals that don’t involve CBS. How did it get her interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle? — Adam Rhodes, via e-mail

A: Through old-fashioned deal-making and the right price being paid (estimated to be in the $7 million ballpark). Winfrey reportedly wanted the program to be a broadcast-network event, rather than selling it to a cable or streaming outlet. (Having it scheduled after “60 Minutes” is said to have been a factor.) That also gave CBS a leg up for the next day’s “CBS This Morning,” which offered footage from the interview that had not been seen in the primetime special — and, not surprisingly, boosted that morning show to a rare ratings win over rivals “Good Morning America” and “Today.”

Another significant deal-sweetener was that CBS became the seller of the special to other networks internationally including England’s ITV, which showed it one night after CBS did. And as other networks used clips from the show on their newscasts, the CBS name was seen virtually everywhere — also quite significant.

Brian Geraghty in “Big Sky”

Q: What has happened with “Big Sky”? It seemed like it vanished again almost as soon as it returned. — Christy Scott, Bend, Ore.

A: Part of that owes to the limited number of episodes that were ordered by ABC. There were 10 initially, broken into multiple-episode arcs (which always was David E. Kelley’s structural plan for the show), then six more were ordered … so seven remain to be shown at this point.

Parceling them out this way may bode well for the future of the series, since it has kept people talking about it, not a bad thing when a network is making renewal decisions. The next return of “Big Sky” is just around the corner, starting April 13, since the documentary series “Soul of a Nation” — which has been in that slot since the start of March — airs its finale April 6.

Q: Will Turner Classic Movies do a Classic Film Festival this year? — Sean Davis, Providence, R.I.

A: Like last year’s, it will be staged virtually .. and not only on TCM, but also on sister service HBO Max for the first time, from May 6 to May 9. The opening attraction will be a 60th-anniversary showing of “West Side Story,” accompanied by a reunion of cast members Rita Moreno and George Chakiris — who both won Oscars for the picture — and Russ Tamblyn.

Ali MacGraw and Danny Glover will receive special tributes during the festival, and filmmakers including Rob Reiner and Mira Nair will introduce one of their movies and offer personal recollections of making it. Expect also to see some of the “Live From the Classic Film Festival” interview specials that were recorded during past editions of the event.

Q: The actress who played Natalie’s mother on “Chicago Med” recently looked familiar. Who was she? — Jackie Parks, via e-mail

A: That was Margaret Colin, known from both daytime and primetime television work, and also from such movies as “Three Men and a Baby” and “Independence Day.” She first made her mark on the weekday serials “The Edge of Night” and “As the World Turns” (marrying co-star Justin Deas of the latter drama), then briefly got her own nighttime show, the private-eye series “Leg Work” (which co-starred then-Oscar-winner-to-be Frances McDormand).

Just about every show in the “Law & Order” franchise, “Blue Bloods” (which reunited her with “Three Men and a Baby’s” Tom Selleck), “The Good Wife,” “Elementary,” ”Madam Secretary” and “Veep” are among the many other series that have featured Colin. Her “Chicago Med” role also was interesting in that earlier, she had a recurring role on another Chicago-based medical drama, “Chicago Hope.”

Q: When will the rest of the fifth season of “Billions” be shown? — Gary Cord, DeLand, Fla.

A: As soon as it can be made ready. As with so many other series last year, production on the Showtime drama was shut down by the coronavirus pandemic, and the cable network has said it “hopes” the remaining five episodes of Season 5 will be presented this year. They had been written before the pandemic, but co-star Maggie Siff told us she wouldn’t be surprised if they were revised to reference current events.

The extra good news is that “Billions” already has been renewed for a sixth season — so whenever Chuck and Axe (Paul Giamatti, Damian Lewis) can get back to their mutually tricky business, there will be plenty more of it to come.

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Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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