May 26, 2011
My Apologies to Oprah's Fans...
I was not an Oprah Winfrey Show devotee. I'm sure Oprah is a nice person who can do major things for your career and all, but besides the fact that I'm usually cooking supper at four o'clock in the afternoon when her show has been on, I've generally only tuned in on occasion to see what interesting guest her starpower has drawn in. It was a stroke of luck then, that had me turning on the TV just in time to catch the infamous couch-jumping interview with Tom Cruise. I also saw a terribly embarrassing interview a few years ago with Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, and Renee Zellweger who were cruising the talk show circuit to promote one of the Bridget Jones's Diary movies. Oprah made the fatal mistake of attempting a game with Hugh wherein she played a slideshow of female actors he had worked with and asked him for the first word that came to mind. I think she was expecting a series of gushing, Hollywood style reactions to the slides, but that is not at all what she got. When Julia Roberts appeared on the screen, Hugh said something like "freak". When Sandra Bullock appeared, I believe "utter nutcase" was the reaction. Oprah was visibly put off, but Renee appeared to back her boys and never gave in to the usual 'I'll pat your back, you pat mine' mode of celebrity exchange that has made Oprah one of the most smug looking talk-show hosts I have ever seen. I also don't think Oprah realized that 'freak' and 'utter nutcase' are good natured compliments shared between chums in the U.K. (and parts of Canada). Colin Firth looked rigid and uncomfortable throughout, and rarely have four people been happier to part ways.
It is interesting to look back on Oprah's influence on society, however. She certainly found a way to tap into the psyche of women (and I'm sure many men and teenage girls) all over the world. What else would keep her on the air for twenty five years, sell her magazine, and give her the idea of her worth as an entire network? Oprah figured out a way to tell millions of people what to read, what movies to see, what products to buy, what food to cook, what clothes to wear and how to wear them, what expert advice to listen to (namely physician Dr. Oz, psychiatrist Dr. Phil, finance guru Suze Ormon, celebrity chef Rachel Ray, who all have their own shows now), and even who to vote for for President. Her show covered it all. Oprah's own rags to riches story was interesting in itself and encompassed the elusive idea of the American Dream-come-true, which only made her more popular with viewers. So why am I not a fan?
First of all, I already follow a religion (ba doom ching!) Seriously, though, I just find Oprah too bossy. You may remember that girl in school, the one who made it her business to come up to you in the hallway, toss her glossy, well groomed head and put on a confidential, condescending tone while she advised you to start wearing a bra or told you your hair looked better short. Oprah reminds me of that girl, and frankly, I'm beyond putting up with that now that I'm in my 40's. I was flipping channels recently and saw that poor tabloid-fodder Octomom sandwiched between annoying finance guru Suze Ormon and Oprah. Both women were going at her like the glossy haired bossy girls in the school hallway. "Do this, do that, don't do this, you need to do that...!" If I were Octomom, I would have told them to mind their own business, but then, she was probably paid a handsome sum to appear on the show - and that buys a lot of diapers. But really, is that type of interview journalism? No, and perhaps it's not meant to be. But then, what is it?
I have often found talk-shows a bit odd. The best hosts seem to be comedians when the interviews are less interviews than opportunities for more comedy, or adversely, serious journalists asking intelligent questions people care to hear the answer to. Oprah's particular style of talk-show has morphed from its original focus on sensationalist topics (I believe she started out in journalism) to a format for do-gooders gone wild. Bossy do-gooders - even worse. Now they have a whole channel to themselves, the subscription only Oprah Winfrey Network, otherwise known as OWN. Will people pay extra for OWN, and if yes, for how long? Time will tell. They'd better invite some A-list celebrities and musical guests to leaven the mood or I have a feeling even the biggest fans will start to lose interest.
Photo by George Burns and found here on the Hollywood Reporter website.