Friday, December 16, 2005

Oprah, Au Revoir.

This afternoon I was in the usual wasteland between coming home from the morning shift and determining that I've successfully put off working out for another afternoon, when I decided to put on Oprah.

I have always been a fan of Oprah, along with other up-by-the-bootstraps, real-fake ladies such as Madonna and Dolly Parton. People like to hate on Oprah, but I have been inclined step to her defense. Until today.

It was about halfway through the show and Oprah was gandering through some home designs by some shiny, cute guy named Nate something. I settled in: I love Oprah's Materialistic shows even more than her Celebrity shows and her Issues shows.

Oprah and Nate were looking at bedding. The first thing I noticed was, none of the bedding looked very exciting. The second thing I noticed was that Oprah was quoting prices as if it were the Home Shopping Network. The third thing I noticed was the whooping. Oprah said the dogs in the picture frame on the bed were "her babies": The audience cheered as if she'd announced she was pregnant. Oprah said the pillows were between $8 and $9: Cries of rejoicing went up through the air. Oprah pointed to some painted boxes: Did someone faint? At one point the camera cut to two jittery women wearing maniacal grins, their hands poised to commence applause. I could have sworn they were high.

All along, Oprah was outyelling them all. Oprah is a renowned exuberant-shouter. She should sit down for an installment of the Actor's Studio, where they would devote an entire segment to her vocal intonation. "Who loves a GOOD. BATHROOMMmm." she chanted, leading everyone to Nate's bathroom furnishings. "You are going to LOVE. THESE. PLATES. AND BOOOOWWWLS!!!"

Now, I'll admit that even though I pretend to be an Oprah fan, I don't actually watch her show that much. Had it changed? I thought back to the last time I saw it, which was when she had James Frey on to talk about his edgy memoir of drug addiction, A Million Little Pieces. I've never read A Million Little Pieces and am not sure if I will. But I left that show feeling embarrassed for Frey and certain that if I bought his book, it would be in spite of Oprah rather than because of her. Frey had to sit there and tolerate excruciating amounts of adulation, and he even filmed a "my home life"-type segment bathed in gauzy lighting gels and cheesy voiceovers. As Frey sat there looking strained, I began to worry that this was the sort of experience that might make him start using again. I started to feel sorry for him, but then remembered how many books he was selling.

Let's not even go into the most recent Tom Cruise appearance.

So I guess Oprah has been this way for awhile, but it always seemed to me like she was just riding happily on her success and really trying to deliver something enjoyable. She'd gone from sleazy TV to power TV and she was celebrating and giving tons of shit away. Sure, let her shout it up. I'd be shouting too.

But now, it felt much less like a show and much more like a shill -- and for third-rate Pottery Barn imitations, no less. Then she proceeded to claim that Ricky Martin, whose album was released (that's right, he has a new album) two months ago, was "back." She ceded the stage so that Martin could perform a song that I thought was "Livin' La Vida Loca" until I realized it was only a new song that happens to sounds just like "Livin' La Vida Loca." It was as if Oprah, along with the guests on her show, had all become Xerox copies of some earlier, better thing.

And so I say godspeed, dear Oprah. I bid you a fair journey, but I can no longer sail with you.


  1. I have always admired people like Oprah and Madonna. They are smart women, with intense business accumen. I also consider the product that they produce to be essentially souless and empty. Discovering that Oprah is using her show to sell linen isn't terribly surprising. :)

  2. Today is my first experience with blogs, so be gentle.

    I am randomly visiting the blogs that scroll by on the log-in page.

    You write very well! You must be a professional.

    I admire Oprah's book club. I purchased a set of Faulkner's novels for a friend.

    I think it is good to get the general public enthused about reading such things.

    I just started to use the firefox browser together with to store bookmarks. I have created a chipmark folder for blogs, and I will chipmark interesting ones, including this one (otherwise how would I ever find them again?)

  3. Posts much appreciated. I do agree about what Oprah has done for book sales. That's one of the reasons I've always liked her. For this one, she got into dangerous territory because she basically set up Frey as some sort of drug counselor, despite his having no pretensions as such.

  4. Anonymous10:56 AM

    i wouldn't know a dust ruffle from a valance and i've always kind of cast a wary eye toward oprah, not unlike a cheetah eyeing a lion near a dead wildebeest: deferential yet ever-so-slightly contemptuous.

    but her appearance on letterman kind of moved the needle in her favor. the lady is building a hospital for kids in south africa from the ground up and personally managing the recruitment of locals to work there. with her own money, of which there is apparently quite a bit.

    that's kind of legit as hell, the crappy tv show notwithstanding. she probably knows her core audience well and she probably has legions of loyal viewers, and probably limits the carthases to like one a week.

  5. Anonymous7:56 AM

    I stopped watching years ago -- even for fun -- when I saw Meg Ryan start CRYING during an extended ad for the Nora Ephron nightmare "Hanging Up" -- I can't watch O now without yelping in RAGE.

  6. I've also been a fan of that perfect and hard work woman so I've heard she has made some frauds during her shows, that's the reason I'd like to know more about that situation.


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