Oprah seeks sainthood with phony reality show

Thu Feb 28, 2008 8:56am EST
 
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LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The first oddity (but certainly not the last) about the eight-week Oprah Winfrey infomercial "Oprah's Big Give" is that there is nary a single genuine giving moment to be found during the opening hour.

It is instead a profoundly hyperkinetic and unwieldy adventure in product placement, in Oprah-as-Messiah hype and, ultimately, in what's so utterly fake and insidious about "reality" television itself.

Because the ABC series operates under the high-minded guise of bringing life, rescue and joy to people in need, it's actually even more disturbing than those shows claiming no similarly socially redeeming purpose.

While the recipients of this largesse no doubt truly benefit in a format that's one part "Queen for a Day" and one part "The Amazing Race," the question must be asked early on: Is it worth being exploited as a quasi-pathetic charity case on national television, replete with on-cue manipulative sappy music and photo ops choreographed by editors seemingly in the throes of epileptic seizure, to gain that helping hand?

The idea here is that, armed simply with a photo, directions and $2,500 in cash, 10 selfless soldiers -- including an Iraq War vet, a dot-com millionaire, a paraplegic author and a pre-med student -- must change the lives of their needy assigned human/family in five days through fundraising, corporate sponsorship or just plain love (which in this case is another synonym for cold hard cash).

The "Biggest Giver" will wind up with $1 million, though Oprah insists "that's a secret!" Oh really? These people are taking weeks out of their busy lives just to help their fellow man?

What makes "Oprah's Big Give" especially unwatchable is a vertigo-inducing pace. Few shots last more than three seconds, making it virtually impossible to get to know any of these people on anything more than a surface level. Which is probably as it should be.

Shallow as a birdbath, the program would appear to exist less as a true philanthropic exercise than yet another self-aggrandizing vehicle in Oprah's divine quest to become synonymous with all that is virtuous and good on Earth. We might well refer to this as "Touched By a Talk Show Host."

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

 
<p>Talk show host Oprah Winfrey speaks in Los Angeles, California, February 3, 2008. The first oddity (but certainly not the last) about the eight-week Oprah Winfrey infomercial "Oprah's Big Give" is that there is nary a single genuine giving moment to be found during the opening hour. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok</p>