Nothing says "hip" like the Oxygen channel

The women's network revamps itself to appeal to younger viewers, with some cringe-inducing results.

Published April 28, 2008 1:20PM (EDT)

It's always an awkward endeavor when a square brand self-consciously tries to make itself hip. And Oxygen, the women's network once affiliated with Oprah Winfrey, is no exception. As the Los Angeles Times reports from last week's network breakfast in New York, Oxygen has unveiled a makeover that it hopes will attract "young and hip" women. The network's current programming consists mostly of sitcom reruns and episodes of "The Tyra Banks Show," but now it has a new logo ("a tasteful yellow O"), a sassy new slogan ("Live Out Loud") and a new slate of shows that are meant to attract something it refers to as "Generation O" -- "18-to-34-year-old women who are 'trenders,' 'spenders' and 'recommenders.'"

So what do "young and hip" women want to watch on television? Apparently, celebrities. Oxygen's selection of shows includes "Coolio's Rules," a new reality show about the rapper and Internet cooking show host and new seasons of "Tori & Dean: Home Sweet Hollywood," about the former "90210" star, and "The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency." The other offerings: "Dance Your Ass Off" -- a competition show that combines America's apparently insatiable appetite for dancing with "Biggest Loser"-like weight loss, and "Meltdown," about celebrity collapses. One of the more promising concepts is "Glamazons," a reality show chronicling the lives of four plus-size women pursuing a music career in New York City.

The network seems to be following Bravo's lead in creating guilty-pleasure television, hoping that educated young women will consume it with the appropriate level of irony. It may well succeed, but it probably won't be doing much to elevate the discourse among young women. And in the meantime, it would be well advised to drop the cringe-worthy 'tween-speak. At the New York event, the network's new "values" were described as "DFW (down for whatever)," "for real" and "don't be a hater." I haven't heard any of those expressions since the '90s, and I have a weird feeling that most 18-to-34-year-old "trenders" haven't either.

By Thomas Rogers

Thomas Rogers is Salon's former Arts Editor. He has written for the Globe & Mail, the Village Voice and other publications. He can be reached at @thomasmaxrogers.

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