oprah own show Oprah names 'Next TV Star' finalists    including Zach AnnerOprah Winfrey may be one step closer in finding an heir to her TV throne.

Winfrey has announced the eight finalists in the online competition to be on “Your OWN Show: Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star.”

Hopefuls submitted more than 9,500 audition videos in the last few months, earning more than 143 million votes. Now, the top eight head to Los Angeles for the final round of auditions.

The forthcoming Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) and producer Mark Burnett (“Survivor”) were so pleased with the turnout, they extended the initial invitation to the top five vote-getters to an additional three — including Zach Anner.

Anner, a Texas comedian with cerebral palsy, has become something of an online phenomenon, earning celebrity endorsements from John Mayer, Perez Hilton and David Hasselhoff for his audition reel. Many expressed skepticism that the competition was rigged when he recently fell in the rankings, which ended up like this:

1. Jacqueline Wattimo of Waterton, MA with 9,360,096 votes
2. Dr. Phyllis Tucker-Wicks of Tampa, FL with 8,453,803 votes
3. Stacia Pierce of East Lansing, MI with 7,604,501 votes
4. Kornelius Bascombe of Raleigh, NC with 5,856,075 votes
5. Dr. Tony Roach of Abilene, TX with 3,842,648 votes
6. Maria Holloway of Miami, FL with 3,796,219 votes
7. Zach Anner of Austin, TX with 3,484,018 votes
8. Jasbina Ahluwalia of Oak Brook, IL with 2,728,232 votes

Each of the eight now head to Los Angeles with an unknown number chosen from in-person auditions held throughout the U.S. From there, the top 10 will compete on air next January in challenges such as screen tests, interview bookings and pitching story ideas.

The winner gets a six-episode contract to host their own show (also produced by Burnett) on OWN later in 2011.

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Posted by:Mikey O'Connell