Monday, April 21, 2008

Oprah's Big Joke

I had the misfortune last night of channelsurfing my way to the finale of "Oprah's Big Give", Oprah Winfrey's bid to extend her brand to the world of reality television. I'm a bit ashamed to say I stayed for the full hour. I should have kept on moving, but like a rubbernecker at a bad car crash, I just couldn't avert my gaze.

The show followed your typical "Survivor/Big Brother/Amazing Race" template... Every week, some poor soul was tossed off the show... But in this case, all of the contestants were competing to see who could be the best fundraiser for charity. Since this was the finale, you had the final three contestants more or less stabbing each other in the back to show what humanitarians they are, while racing against an arbitrary clock to "give" as much to the community as possible before time ran out. It was all very distasteful, but unfortunately, I've just scratched the surface... The show also included:
  • Oprah Winfrey hosting on auto-pilot. You can tell she devoted absolutely no time to the show. She read everything off of a teleprompter, and she more or less played the role of Santa Claus on the show... handing out cash to the contestants as though they had been touched by the hand of God.
  • A completely meaningless cameo appearance by Jennifer Aniston. She was brought in just long enough to help Oprah give away some cash. She walked on... played the role of Jennifer Aniston, and walked off. She did nothing for charity or nothing else on the show. She was merely Jennifer Aniston.
  • Two of the final three contestants raised piles of cash for charity - about 160 grand - in the final episode... But the third finalist - a beauty pageant queen - decided the best thing she could do to make a difference in the world was to beg a chef at a high-end restaurant to give a cooking lesson to some wheelchair-bound children in a hospital. The chef made something with a gooey white cheddar sauce. I'm not sure how this was supposed to give these children a better life - Perhaps they had one more product placement obligation to squeeze into the show.
  • The "purpose" of the show was supposedly to demonstrate that anyone can raise money for charity and make the world a better place... But let's face it. The only reason ANY of these people were able to get anything done was because Oprah Winfrey's name was attached to the whole thing. Last night, they were supposedly able to get "Blue Man Group" to put on a free show AND to donate 100,000 dollars for charity - all on less than 24 hours notice. Do you suppose any of that could have happened without them dropping "the big O"?
  • The biggest sin of all - especially for someone who has at least a little knowledge about how the media works - is that the show had AWFUL production value. Oprah's voice was dubbed in in several places, and you could tell it was done to cover up for badly shot or missing video. The dubs were apparent, not seamless... and the editing was awful. On more than one occasion, the scene went from applause to silence instantly, obviously because they either had to make up a different ending or attempt to make the show's ending more palatable than originally envisioned.

Is it just me, or do you agree that Oprah could have had a much bigger impact if she had taken all the money invested on this stinker and given it directly to charity herself? Let's hope "the Big Give" does NOT spawn a sequel someday!


Anonymous said...

Oprah's 4 interviews with Jill Bolte Taylor were the first that Oprah did after Eckhart Tolle and they take everything Tolle talks about to another level. Oprah's copy of Jill's book, MY STROKE OF INSIGHT, was dog-eared and all marked up and kept reading from it the way she read from A New Earth and recommended it highly.

Oprah's recommendation was enough for me. I read My Stroke of Insight and I loved it too. This story is as inspiring as The Last Lecture or Tuesdays with Morrie - and even better, it has a Happy Ending!

I bought the book on Amazon because they have it for 40% off retail and they also had an amazing interview with Dr Taylor that I haven't seen anywhere else - Here is the Amazon link:

luisa said...

I read "My Stroke of Insight" in one sitting - I couldn't put it down. I laughed. I cried. It was a fantastic book (I heard it's a NYTimes Bestseller and I can see why!), but I also think it will be the start of a new, transformative Movement! No one wants to have a stroke as Jill Bolte Taylor did, but her experience can teach us all how to live better lives. Her speech was one of the most incredibly moving, stimulating, wonderful videos I've ever seen. Her Oprah Soul Series interviews were fascinating. They should make a movie of her life so everyone sees it. This is the Real Deal and gives me hope for humanity.