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Series / Our America With Lisa Ling

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"America. It can be inspiring and beautiful. It can also be dark and ugly. It's so many things... but it's ours. It's Our America."
Lisa Ling opening narration

Our America with Lisa Ling is a documentary series airing on OWN since the network's rebranding from Discovery Health in 2011. Each episode sees journalist Lisa Ling travel to one or more locations around the United States (usually more, and in at least one case outside the United States) to cover a specific topic. The hallmark of the show is the slow, methodical pacing given to every topic, and the considerable effort Lisa makes in making sure that everyone at least gets heard and is given a reasonable chance to present their particular vantage point, regardless of the reputation they might have coming in. Not necessarily agreed with at the end of the show, but heard.

Which, if you've just come from any number of cable news shows, can be a bit of a shock to the system. Which is the whole idea.

The series went on for five seasons from 2011 until 2014. Afterward, Ling began a Spiritual Successor series for CNN called This Is Life.


  • Arranged Marriage: The topic of "Holy Matrimonies".
  • Crapsack World: With an episode title like "The Lost American Dream", there's really not any getting around it. Not that Lisa doesn't try at one point.
  • Cure Your Gays: The episode "Pray the Gay Away?" focused on LGBT Christians saying they want to stop feeling attracted to the same sex, contrasted with others who've reconciled their faith and sexuality.
  • Downer Ending: At the end of "Heroin in the Heartland", an episode about heroin addiction in the Midwest, it's revealed that one of the subjects died in the time between production and airing. This gets explored further in an update episode, where we catch up with her distraught surviving husband.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The show was originally to be called Inside with Lisa Ling. In several of the Season 1 episodes, there are traces of this as Lisa says towards the start of the episode, "Let's go inside". She hasn't said the phrase since, after the title 'Our America' was implemented.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: In "State of Sex Offenders'., While the entire episode documents this trope as an overarching theme of an offender's post-sentence life, but in particular, one recently-released prisoner decided to go to the beach just to soak up the fact that he was out of prison. His ankle bracelet went off, because unbeknownst to both him and Lisa, the beach was not a place he was allowed to be. Nor was his parents' house, where he had also been. Lisa accompanied him to the police station to see what was up. He went in, she waited outside. He didn't come back out. Eventually Lisa went in to check on him, only to find he'd already been sent back to jail.
    • Hit again in "Labeled For Life".
  • Gilligan Cut: In "Sparkle Babies", an episode about toddler beauty pageants, one apprehensive dad says he will not allow his daughter to get a fake spray tan in advance of a pageant. Cut to the spray tan being applied, supervised by the mom, and Lisa and the dad looking on.
    Lisa (to dad): So much for no tans, huh?
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: Sister Margaret in "Brides of Christ", an episode about nuns.
  • Mail-Order Bride: Well, online brides, anyway. Lisa followed a group of ten bachelors down to Colombia to see how they made out. One ended up getting married. Another, in an online-only clip, claimed he'd found someone, but that fell apart as soon as Lisa asked him what the girl's last name was.
  • Neglected Rez: "Life On The Rez" features the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, the poorest rez in the country.
  • Off the Rails: Happened with the episode "Pray The Gay Away?". Lisa started out wanting to profile a Christian summer camp in Minnesota for gay teenagers. Somewhere along the line, the final aired product became mostly about the ex-gay community, which believes prayer can turn a gay person straight, complete with episode title focusing on the latter. The summer camp didn't show up until late in the episode. The non-ex-gay community, which was under the impression that they'd thoroughly discredited the ex-gays by now, flipped their lid. It took Lisa quite a bit of time and energy, including an extra hour after the original airing devoted to discussing the episode they'd just aired, to mostly-but-still-not-entirely smooth things over.
    • A couple years later, the most prominent ex-gay ministry featured in the episode, Exodus International, shut down after a chain of events that began with the episode. That smoothed things over quite nicely.
  • Polyamory: The episodes "Swingers Next Door" and "I Love You & You... & You" focus on this.
  • Safe, Sane, and Consensual: The primary image of BDSM in "Shades Of Kink".
  • Teen Pregnancy: The topic of "Teen Mom Nation".
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: The focus of the episode "Invisible Wounds of War".
  • Streetwalker: The subject of "3 AM Girls". Though Lisa was adamant that they be considered straight-up Sex Slaves, and their pimps slave owners.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The final episodes of seasons 1 and 2, recapping various subjects from throughout the season.