Robert Bianco’s review in USA Today does something almost unheard of in today’s media: it rips into Oprah Winfrey! He hints at the “horrifying” and “stomach-churning” as he describes her new entry into the prime time TV market.
Oprah is more than a pop diva or ratings queen—she’s really become something of a cultural chaplain, influencing worldviews, belief systems, and careers. And she’s done it with a sort of untouchability when it comes to media criticism.
That’s why it got my attention when Bianco’s review took aim at her new “giving” show, “The Big Give.”
“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)…as reinterpreted by the Queen of All Media,” he writes. It’s 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.”
He then goes on to point out the odd coupling of two dynamics: “Good works clash with bad behavior, altruism shares space with publicity-masked-as-charity, all wrapped in the familiar reality-genre clichés,” he says. “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.”
I haven’t seen an advanced version of the show yet, but I’m glad someone has called Ms. Winfrey out. “That your charitable deed may be in secret,” says the scriptures, and at some point even Oprah has to get reigned in. As Bianco concluded: “There’s no doubt everyone involved means well, but then you do know where that road paved with good intentions leads, right? And it isn’t heaven.”