Doyennes in Distress: Oprah and Martha, Queens of Daytime Empowerment, Unceremoniously Dethroned?

It's a bad thing.

By then it was also becoming clear that a spot in Ms. Winfrey’s pantheon did not guarantee eternal, syndicated glory. Dr. Phil, the original Oprah spin-off, fell below Maury in daytime ratings, and The Nate Berkus Show was canceled due to low viewership. Meanwhile, over at the Hallmark Channel, it wasn’t just The Martha Stewart Show that was at risk of cancellation but all MSLO programming, including Martha Bakes and Emeril Lagasse, acquired in 2008.

As Ms. Stewart and Ms. Winfrey receded into to their respective boardrooms, onlookers sought an heiress apparent. For a moment, it seemed that Food Network star Rachael Ray was the one. She had Ms. Winfrey’s warmth and Ms. Stewart’s interest in entertaining. What she lacked in authority (she was one mispronounced ingredient away from giving Anthony Bourdain an aneurysm), she made up for in relatability. In 2005, she left Lake Isle Press for Clarkson Potter, Ms. Stewart’s first publisher, and launched her own magazine with Reader’s Digest, Every Day With Rachael Ray. The same year, Ms. Winfrey opened the door to syndication with a Harpo-produced cook-talk show, Rachael Ray.

The EVOO began to go stale in time. Late last year, Reader’s Digest blamed Every Day’s weak ad revenue for the company’s declining profits and sold the title to Meredith. The magazine sent subscribers a letter that said that the November book was so big, they would count it toward two of their subscription issues. Those who complained—some tipping off The New York Times along the way—got it refunded. The magazine will reportedly lose $10 million this year due to a 21 percent dip in advertising.

Interestingly, Ms. Ray’s most popular recent endeavor had nothing to do with imparting lifestyle advice. On New Year’s Day, the premiere of Rachael v. Guy Celebrity Cook-Off—in which she and fellow Food Network provincial fave Guy Fieri coach D-list celebrities like Aaron Carter and Summer Sanders in a cooking contest—drew 3.5 million viewers. That’s more than three times as many people as Ms. Winfrey pulled for a two-hour heart-to-heart with Steven Tyler.

In 2012, we’re less likely to see a high-functioning superwoman deified than we are to see the celebrities we’ve already exalted flap about as they try their hands at lowly housework. As if Bravo’s “Real” housewives weren’t already ample proof that money can’t buy Martha-grade taste, it seems we’re still doomed to get the latest news from the dysfunctional Kardashian domicile. As Martha Stewart Living, O: The Oprah Winfrey Magazine, and Every Day With Rachael Ray continue to scrap for advertisers, the Kardashians have reportedly been talking to tabloid giant American Media about launching their own magazine.

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