In short, Ms. Novak stole the show.
“Katherine Heigl is so damn gorgeous, even from a girl’s point of view,” Ms. Novak recently told NYTV. “But they did only one segment on her. The rest was on me. I was really surprised.”
She wasn’t alone. For industry observers, the mere fact that Ms. Novak was on Oprah was a coup. After all, the A&E reality show Confessions of a Matchmaker, which focuses on Ms. Novak’s brusque, ballsy style of love pairing (sample quote to a portly client: “You’ve made a choice between doughnuts and sex”), hardly burned up the Nielsen charts when the 13 episodes aired this summer.
Yet, in the all-important competition for Ms. Winfrey’s coveted attention, Ms. Novak had somehow bested her rivals in cable-TV matchmaking—namely, Matt Titus of Lifetime’s Matched in Manhattan, and Patti Stanger of Bravo’s The Millionaire Matchmaker.
As Ms. Novak once said to a hunky 41-year-old virgin: “How the hell did that happen?”
Ms. Novak said that back in October she received a call from Harpo, Ms. Winfrey’s production company. Typically, Ms. Novak advises her clients to keep initial phone calls with potential paramours brief because you want to leave plenty to talk about at dinner. But the rules for professional seductions are different, and Ms. Novak chatted at length with the producer. Eventually, she had to explain that—sorry!—she was still under contract with A&E. A month or so later, when A&E told Ms. Novak they weren’t picking up her show for a second season, the courtship with Harpo continued.
Somewhere along the line, according to Ms. Novak, the producers at Harpo told her they had been taking a look at her cable-matchmaking competition but eventually decided that she had “more of an Oprah feeling.” She got the nod.
Once in the studio, Ms. Novak and Ms. Winfrey got along swimmingly. Their only disagreement concerned Ms. Novak’s pickle-jar theory of love. “I have this theory about wonderful, successful, incredible women in the millennium,” said Ms. Novak. “They spend too much time as a single person. Then they meet somebody, and they forget to let them open the pickle
jar. The one thing that God is never going to change is that men still need to feel like men. So let them open it.”
Ms. Winfrey was skeptical. “This is the question I hear from my friends all the time, how do you then balance, you know, not becoming subservient, or pretending to be something you’re not with, ‘Here, please help me open the pickle jar’?” said Ms. Winfrey. “Would you open the pickle jar because you can open the pickle jar yourself? So we’re just opening that damn pickle jar. We want the pickle, take the pickle out.”
Eventually, the pickle issue was resolved. And afterward, Ms. Winfrey joined Ms. Novak in the green room to take some celebratory pictures. Will the relationship continue?
On Jan. 15, Ms. Winfrey and Discovery Communications announced that they were teaming up to create the Oprah Winfrey Network, OWN, which will kick off sometime in 2009. Already, the speculation has begun on how Ms. Winfrey plans to fill the cable channel. Last week, when Christina Norman, the president of MTV, announced that she would be stepping down, rumors flew that she was joining OWN. And, in the coming weeks and months expect the speculation to ratchet up, as each guest is sized up as a potential future OWNer.
Currently, Oprah’s Web site offers a slide show on the principals of Ms. Novak’s “Rough Buff” style of Tough Love. And it’s not hard to imagine Ms. Novak—a.k.a. “One of America’s toughest matchmakers,” a.k.a. the “Simon Cowell of Dating,” a.k.a., “Cupid with a sledgehammer”—someday joining OWN.
Might there be a Dr. Patti show someday in the future?
Ms. Novak acknowledged that she had talked with Oprah’s people about OWN. But, she said, the discussions are embryonic. “At this point, honestly, so many of those decisions haven’t been made,” said Ms. Novak. “By me or by them. If the right situation came up, I would certainly be excited about it.”
This week, A&E will be airing a “confessions of a matchmaker” marathon on its Bio Channel. Ms. Novak said that she has a hot-and-cold feeling about her future in television. “The little voices in my head tell me, be careful, always remember what you’re really good at,” said Ms. Novak. “What I’m really good at is reading people and putting hearts together. It’s really funny about TV. You want it. And then when it’s there, you’re not sure you want it anymore. It’s like chasing a boyfriend. Once you have him, you’re not always sure.”