Review: ‘Finding Sarah’

After several ostentatious missteps in the life of Sarah Ferguson, former Duchess of York, this six-episode series certainly approximates the feel of an "Oprah" episode, including the saccharine music and teeth-gnashing platitudes.

“Finding Sarah” plays like an Oprah Winfrey Network prototype on steroids — a self-help superhero team-up that features Batman (Dr. Phil McGraw) and Wonder Woman (Suze Orman) trying to “save” an imperiled princess, in this case, former Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson. After several ostentatious missteps in Ferguson’s life, this six-episode series certainly approximates the feel of an “Oprah” episode, including the saccharine music and teeth-gnashing platitudes. However the show works out for its namesake, if this doesn’t flourish on OWN, it might be time to see if the name “Discovery Health” is still available.

Ferguson’s scandal-plagued descent after her fairy-tale youth seems tailor-made to the “Oprah” audience, and this series (in which she doubles as a producer) follows an interview she did with Winfrey. Seeking to turn her life around, Ferguson essentially agrees to a series of meetings with Oprah-sanctioned gurus of daytime present, including McGraw and Orman.

At times, though, the treatment seems a whole lot worse than the disease, which, if you haven’t been following Ferguson’s tale closely, is sordid, embarrassing and too complex to be tackled in much detail in a venue such as this.

“You are emotionally bankrupt,” Dr. Phil tells her.

“I’m 51, and I have no self-worth,” Ferguson confesses during her session with Orman, having earlier stated, “I sabotaged myself.”

Additional experts will follow in later episodes, conducting Ferguson’s journey of self-discovery and hoped-for mental, spiritual and physical rebirth, including a 26-mile trek through Canada. It’s the very epitome of Winfrey’s pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps, “live your best life” motto. For all that, she’s a poor object of sympathy — whining about having squandered a privileged and pampered existence few could imagine ever enjoying.

For OWN, the underlying challenge is more fundamental: Peddling the brand of feel-good, uplifting TV championed by its namesake, which has always been a tough sell beyond the narrow confines of her syndicated showcase.

Perhaps that’s why there’s more at stake here than just whether all the Daytime Queen’s horses and men can put poor Sarah together again.

Finding Sarah

OWN, Sun. June 12, 9 p.m.


Produced by World of Wonder. Executive producers, Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato, Tom Campbell, Sarah Ferguson; co-executive producer/director, Elise Duran; senior producer, Swaga Deb; supervising story producer, Loredana Palivoda; lead editor, Moon Hanson; music, David Benjamin Steinberg. 60 MIN.


With: Sarah Ferguson, Phil McGraw, Suze Orman.

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