Lisa Ling Ventures Off the Beaten Path to Find Her ‘America’

by | February 15, 2011 at 2:32 PM | TV News

Lisa Ling (OWN)

Lisa Ling (OWN)

Lisa Ling went in search of America and came back with reports on six subcultures that may or may not represent “Our America.”

Whether or not they do depends on your own interpretation of that phrase, which happens to be the title of Ling’s new documentary series starting Tuesday night at 10/9c on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN channel.

If they’re not “our America” to some, Ling’s subjects are at least “an America.” They are groups who reside on the fringes of our society, though Ling says they are part of us nevertheless. However, even she concedes that exploring these six worlds made her feel as if she had ventured into “a foreign country.”

Who are these people? Each of the six groups comprise one episode of this new series of six, one-hour docs, starting with the premiere episode on “Faith Healers.” From there, and for the next five Tuesdays, Ling gives us “Transgender Lives,” including transgender children; “State of Sex Offenders,” a journey into an encampment of homeless pedophiles living in the Florida woods; “Pray the Gay Away?” about the movement to “treat” homosexuality with intensive prayer; “Heroin in the Heartland,” about an entire family of addicts in a small Ohio town; and “Online Brides,” about Man’s eternal quest for love.

“This is our story, this is our America,” Ling said at a small gathering of reporters this week in New York, where she also talked about what it’s like to work for Oprah, and shared her memories of her three-and-a-half years on “The View.”

Here’s what she had to say:

On which episode of “Our America” is her favorite: Though she seemed to talk about the faith-healer episode the most (and with the most passion), she insisted that “they’re all my favorite for a different reason. We really get immersed in all of these shows. . . . I still talk to at least one or two of the people we’ve done shows about.”

On Oprah’s level of involvement in overseeing Ling’s show: “She doesn’t have as much involvement with the ‘guts’ of it,” Ling said, “but definitely has a say on the stories.” Ling said it’s not uncommon to get an e-mail from Oprah at 2 a.m. with a comment or suggestion.

On “The View,” for which she has fond memories (for the simple reason that, unlike a couple of other “View” vets, Ling didn’t make an explosive exit from the show): “It’s been so long since I’ve done ‘The View’ [1999-2002] that when I watch it, I can’t believe I was on it. I haven’t really missed it because I love to be in the field.”

On the state of television and TV journalism: “The TV landscape is so muddied and sensational and, I’ll be frank, lowest-common denominator,” she said, signaling a desire on her part to stand out by adhering closely to high journalistic standards. Said she, “Unlike a lot of journalists today, I’m not going to tell you what to think.”

“Our America with Lisa Ling” premieres Tuesday night at 10/9c on OWN.