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O, Oprah, say it ain’t so — what’s the intention of her reality?

I’ve watched Oprah plenty of times. I’ve read her magazines. For the most part, I dig her sensibilities if not always her interviewing techniques.

So, when I heard she was quitting her show, launching her OWN network, and giving regular Joe’s and Josie’s a chance to have their own television talk show — I thought, hey, I’m going to try for that. I’d heard that you had to upload a three-minute video to her website to audition and I was in the process of pulling it all together when I realized that the video-tape is a prelude audition to a reality show contest, the winner of which will get a television talk show.

A reality show? Oprah? Are you kidding me? And the guy she’s partnering with is Mark Burnett who I believe did Survivor and Donald Trump’s The Apprentice.

Now look, I know reality shows are popular and have their place — though I’ve never seen Survivor, or half the other R shows, I used to enjoy Top Chef and have certainly seen how this kind of programming is making celebrities — rich ones, too — out of people fairly normal, seemingly likable people like Elisabeth Hasselback and Bethenny Frankel.

But remember those sensibilities of Oprah’s I talked about liking? Well, they’re the farthest thing from reality programming — I mean, I’ve always liked the attention she’s given to living life with intention. I believe our intentions are our actions and vice versa. I thought, given what I’ve heard Oprah say and the things I’ve read that she’s written, that she believed that too.

Then, if so, how can she possibly want to produce a show the intention of which is not a good one, but a pretty lousy one? There isn’t a person alive who could miss the fact that the intention of a reality show is about one thing — getting rich by getting ratings by throwing a bunch of people competing for the same thing into confined spaces and restricted activities and watching them fight like fire ants in a jar to see who can climb out on top.

Well, actually, if I would force myself to be a bit honest here — which is uncomfortable for me, because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings — least of all Oprah’s, whose show I’d love to appear on to talk about life and um, well, my next book if I ever get the darn thing written — and if she’s reading this right now (don’t I wish!), invite me on your show so I can explain all this to you in person — but if I were really honest, I guess I’d say I view the reality show set-up to be an insult to her viewers, one that sullies her brand, and well, is very nearly sullying my perception of her as a person.

I expected a bit more from Oprah, which I know is silly. But there you go. And even as I write that, I know, if the show happens and I can check it out, believe me I will. And with that moment will come a “Crap! I coulda been a contender” moment.

But as Oprah always writes — What I know for sure — is this: I’ve never once regretted a decision that was made in a sincere effort to live true and well — whether rich or poor — but in an honest fashion and god willing, never at the expense of someone else’s humanity.

And if that sounds high falutin’, so be it. Because I do believe that reality television at its core — despite all the fun of the gossip, and the drama, and the money and the celebrity that inevitably flows — its truest intention is a degradation of personal and group integrity, and one consequence of that is the degradation of humanity. We are what we eat, are we not? What we put into our bodies, hearts, and minds, is often uncomfortably close to what we put out. Eat crap and your body turns to crap. Read junk and you mind turns to mush. Watch ugliness and what beauty can come from that?

Maybe Oprah’s show will be different — maybe it won’t be an ugly-maker; maybe somehow she’ll reign Burnett in and it will be a pretty-maker, something that brings out the best in people, not the worst. But I’m not banking on it.

Reality shows are produced to systematically strip civility away and pit people against one another in often mean-spirited and petty pursuit of short-cuts to success.

I know there had to be some other way — something less banal, less sad, something less than this giving-in to (or perhaps just a pragmatic, financially-based exploitation of) the ragged tides of pop/techo/cult of personality culture that have eclipsed anything Andy Warhol could have envisioned.

Time to shake the money-maker.
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P.S.
Obviously, I decided to cancel my video shoot for the audition. As much as I might want a paying gig — especially one that lets me speak my mind to a certain extent and certainly one with the golden touch of the O — I don’t want it that badly. Not judging anyone else who does; it’s just not my schtick.

Speaking of which — for two folks with Sarasota connections — it is their schtick and you can help make it happen for them by checking out their videos and voting for them online. The first is Theresa Rose. The second is Michelle Teyke. Just because I don’t want this thing to be my reality, doesn’t mean I don’t support theirs — so if you like their ideas for a talk show, vote for them!

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Posted on June 26th, 2010Comments RSS Feed
3 Responses to O, Oprah, say it ain’t so — what’s the intention of her reality?
  1. I know, you and I could pair up and be “the couple” with our hearts on our sleeves as we together face each new challenge filled with rich debate which the audience and judges will see as romantic bonding which will culminate in our falling in love and in the last episode get married..

    Then, in our talk show, we can have alternative bands, famous dead poets come on and read for us, intelligent pet tricks, and it will be in the format like Conan O’Brien’s old late night tv show, only funny.

    And, as in all good things, the show will be canceled after 10 years of emmy award wins each year in the talk show category and I will sail off in search of adventure with a new contract by the Discovery Channel and you are featured in your new show raising our adoptive son Steve, on the O Channel titled, “What was I thinking marrying that JERK.” Featuring the tribulations of a single mother trying to get by on only $1,248,000.00 a year in desperate times.

    Sounds lucrative, doesn’t it ?

    Reply
  2. sounds like a plan, stan.

    Reply
  3. Steve W. Perkins
    June 28, 2010 at 5:38 am

    Wow you would be such cool parents!

    Reply

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