March 2, 2008, - 12:28 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
What if a well known TV host, say Martha Stewart, had a show in which White people were given $1 million each to engage in various televised competitions to help Black people who were alleged targets of racism? We’d call that a minstrel show. And Stewart’s career would be finito (finita?). But when Oprah does it and instead of race being the divide, indigence is, it’s suddenly okay?
Tonight’s “Oprah’s Big Give” show is disgusting in its minstrel show quality. If Oprah truly wanted to help poor people, she would do it quietly and in private, instead of turning these people into museum exhibits on camera, exploited in an Oprah-eponymous (of course!), publicly broadcast game, the ultimate goal of which is to further expand Oprah’s broadcast TV profits. It reminds me of Warren Beatty’s protests to Madonna, in the documentary “Truth or Dare“:
Why do you have to film everything? If it’s not on film, it didn’t happen?
And who judges this “competition,” in which the Roman coliseum features down-on-their-luck Americans instead of men fighting lions? Well, the judges are Malaak Compton-Rock, whose only qualification was that she’s sleeping with comedian Chris Rock and managed to get him to put a ring on her finger (although he’s twice sought a divorce from her). Oh, and there’s Tony Gonzalez, whose claim to fame is that he’s a faux-vegan (who ingests chicken and salmon and milk), poor-quality NFL football player? And “Naked Chef” Jamie Oliver. All three of these cretins should be ashamed of themselves for profiting at the expense and exploitation of poor Americans, using their misfortune for ratings.
But they aren’t. Ms. Compton-Rock announced she’s hosting a viewing party. And I almost forgot–the show is hosted by gay interior decorator Nate Berkus. And he’s quite an expert on altruism. When Oprah did her disgusting Hurricane Katrina exploitation show, Berkus and Oprah “reporter”/HAMAS-lover Lisa Ling famously let a displaced Black man’s dog sleep in the house in which they were staying, but they made the man sleep in the sewage-infested New Orleans Park. Berkus even made sure we knew the man’s dog’s name. Never learned the man’s name, though.
“The View’s” resident airhead/pseudo-conservative Elisabeth Hasselbeck–whose only qualification in life is that she was a bug-eating contestant on another horrid reality show, “Survivor”–sang the “virtues” of this nauseating show:
Everybody, this show is like a reality show, only it’s much better because it helps people and is about good.
Uh, wrong. Although they all stink, this is the worst of the reality shows because it is all about exploiting the unfortunate with the phony visage of altruism to give it the kosher seal of approval. Sickening.
And I’m not the only one who’s disgusted at this vulgar display. USA Today’s liberal TV critic, Robert Bianco, agrees, though he’s far more charitable about Oprah’s motives:
How can earning a spot in heaven compare with a place in prime time?
Anyone old-fashioned enough to believe in keeping acts of righteousness private should give a wide berth to Oprah’s Big Give (ABC, Sunday, 9 ET/PT), Queen for a Day as reinterpreted by the Queen of All Media. An Apprentice-type game that turns charity into a competitive sport, Give will strike you as immensely uplifting or horrifyingly vulgar, or an odd combo of both.
Good works clash with bad behavior, altruism shares space with publicity-masked-as-charity, all wrapped in the familiar reality-genre cliches. And at the stomach-churning center is that old American TV belief that every problem can be solved with a take-home prize, without any consideration for underlying difficulties. . . .
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition treads much of this same maudlin, TV-knows-best territory. But at least that show doesn’t turn the people it’s making over into pawns in a game – a game that inevitably elevates the players’ problems to the level of the people they’re supposed to be helping. . . . For all its new-age trappings, Give is a throwback to a time when the poor were expected to be grateful for whatever they were given.
Seldom has the drive to do good works been as alarmingly, offensively presumptuous. When a homeless woman says she had hoped to be trained for a job, you can’t help thinking she may have had the best idea of what was best for her. Might there not be some widows who don’t want to be surprised with a block party or toy-buying spree, or who don’t like strangers telling their children how to best mourn their father?
There’s no doubt everyone involved means well.
Speak for yourself on that last line, Mr. Biano. There’s no doubt for me because I think it’s quite obvious none of the participants means well–not the judges, not the host, and certainly not the billionairess Executive Producer who shoved her name on it as yet another notch on her superhighway of braggadocio in the conglomerate that is Oprah.
It’s quite obvious there aren’t any good intentions here. This is all about Oprah. I feel sorry for the poor people used like dirty diapers by Queen O. Don’t worry, she won’t be giving them a cut of the profits action.
This show is a disgrace. And so is Oprah.
Tags: ABC, Biano, billionairess Executive Producer, Chris Rock, comedian, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Extreme Makeover, football player, Hamas, Jamie Oliver, Lisa Ling, Malaak Compton-Rock, Martha Stewart, National Football League, New Orleans Park, NFL, Oprah Mag Artwork Courtesy, Queen, Queen for a Day, reporter, Robert Bianco, Roman coliseum, Survivor, Tony Gonzalez, Truth or Dare, TV Guide, USA Today, USD, Warren Beatty, well known TV host