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USA Today Gives It to Oprah’s ‘Give’

posted by Douglas Howe

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.”



  • Velma P. Watson

    BN,
    This is just another ploy to go after Oprah because of her giving nature, because the one that is making the loudest noise is the one who if he/she had what Oprah gives, would rather feed dogs, save chimps, and secure the elephant’s patch, rather than help people. It is not a bad thing to help animals, but when those who choose to help animals rather than people, something is already a mist in their soul growth. The person who wrote the Oprah piece seems to be a real fool with a capitol F, when people are losing their homes, vehicles, life styles, and all they hold dear, who could careless about what he has to say about OPRAH!!! Has he given lately to anyone? Probably not and he probably cheated on his income tax. Sin is sin, irregardless to who commits it. Then he refers to her “Give” show as vulgar. What is more vulgar today than seeing many young women holding good positions with cleavage to their knees, without stockings, looking like two bit peddlers of flesh. His opinion is nothing but a but hole. Everyone has one, but very few matter regarding opinions on issues that truly matter.

  • Nancy Law

    Knowing what Oprah Winfrey has gone through from childhood and how she has pulled herself up and proved herself time and time again, I won’t call her down for “gifting”.
    I only know that it just doesn’t sit right with me. Each time I see the commercial for this new show, I get a bad feeling.
    Thank God for Oprah and all of the tremendous things she has accomplished — Dr. Phil started out on her show and he was a source of great comfort, helped people pull themselves up by their bootstrapss and get on with loving and living.
    I only know that my favorite Oprah show involved a pajama party with ordinary ladies and some extraordinary, in particular, Oprah’s best friend and mentor, Mya Angelou — that’s the Oprah that I miss.
    I’m sure that Oprah has privately done many wonderful things for charity and I have always commended her for them in my heart, she’s made me laugh and I admit, cry.
    Oprah has also been the first, in most cases, to confront, dead-on scary and hidden societal issues on her show that others just don’t speak about as that would be suicide — ratings would go down, don’t ya know, blah blah blah.
    Oprah had or may still have this wonderful of the “Thankful” book where people would write down every day what they were thankful for in their lives — just one more thing that made me think, “I’m so unhappy because of so much that was done to me as a child….BUT, let me start writing down what I am truly thankful for”. It wasn’t that hard to write a whole page of good things despite all of the blackness I had experienced. Oprah shone a light for all, no matter their circumstances.
    I don’t know that being Christian is why this “GIVE” show doesn’t sit well with me or not.
    I guess what it all comes down to for me is that giving should be from your heart (not a contest). Hypothetically, if all that I can afford is $5.00 and I give it to someone because they really do need it more than I, then, is that not the essence of true giving?
    Oprah could have done this whole thing without publicity, without advertisers paying huge bucks to have their products advertised on the largest philanthropic “advertised” effort ever undertaken resultantly, perhaps, actually banking the whole operation.
    Oprah could have done this without a tv show/contest.
    It bothers me that there is a gigantic reward for giving the most and using up every single penny of the money she’s handing out.
    It bothers me that the givers are, in fact, contestants and that there is a million dollar prize for the person who gives the most and I suppose makes a supreme change for the good in another person, group, or family’s life.
    It bothers me that there will be “losers” among “givers”.
    I do not believe I will watch this show — and that is an extreme statement for me because I greatly admire Oprah Winfrey.
    It is my hope that Oprah, ever the innovator, has thought of every contingency and made sure that her show will not be a cutthroat, contestant uses any means at their disposal (possibly illegal?) to truly bring some light and hope into the life and perhaps future of another person, another person’s family or a group of persons.
    Oprah is a brilliant business woman — based on her past achievements, she must have covered all areas where there could have been problems and handled them before they could occur.
    Unfortunately, no matter how hard the contestants try to abide by the regulations of this contest, all people have free will and that could be the fly in the ointment.
    As a Canadian, I’m assuming that this gifting will only help American families and that makes me a bit sad because we all live on this planet called Earth and all of it and the people in it could use help and sometimes that means money, but a lot of the time, it means help to achieve structure and goals so that we can overcome difficulties that are holding us stuck in one place, and it just means help us by giving us the tools to help us clear the cobwebs from our eyes so that we can see light at the end of the tunnel instead of the hopelessness and darkness that far too many “know” is their lot in life.
    I’m not foolish enough to even suggest that Oprah should “save” the world — I would dislike it if people read my previous paragraph and came away thinking that as it was not my intention.
    The giving of tools to help us make goals and achieve structure as well as eventual success at maybe finding a small home and being able to pay for it has a price that you cannot put a dollar sign on. That would be a “pearl of great price” as it would add value to a person’s life, enrich their soul, expand their horizons from what they perceive presently as their lot in life.
    God bless you Oprah Winfrey — may there be some checks and balances that make sure this wonderful idea does not turn into a catastrophe.
    Regards,
    nancyincanada

  • Yvette

    Maybe the premise of the show in the end is to encourage the people who watch the show to give just a little and that you can help others in need no matter how desolate your situation maybe.
    Something to think about – maybe that is her goal to get others to think about giving. At least that is how I felt after watching last night. I now know I can help others and do not have to be a millionaire to do it. I can give time or volunteer lots I can do to make a difference

  • JPL

    The reviewer is completely correct. The show is nothing but a vile greedfest of product placement. The charitable acts simply put a pleasant face on the reality show conventions of in-fighting and backbiting amongst the participants, sponsors getting their corporate logos screen-time, and pulling at the sappiest of heartstrings by using homeless people, people with Down’s Syndrome, injured vets and probably three-legged puppies at some point as props.
    The spiritual guideline that charity should be done in private is conveniently overlooked. The complex problems underlying the issues faced by the giftees is overlooked. And the qualifications of the judges (including a chef, an interior designer, Chris Rock’s wife, and some man with a British accent to give a more pleasant Simon Cowell air to the whole thing) are not just questionable…they’re ridiculous.
    Like the Pharisee, Oprah always gives of her abundance. Hell, usually it’s the abundance of her sponsors or her production company. Blessed was the woman who gave all that she had.

  • Jane from Philly

    Did none of you notice that some of the contestants had previously given of themselves prior to being selected for this show? Yes, it’s good to give with no thought of a return; but doesn’t it feel good when one is acknowledged for having a giving spirit?
    And, then again, there are those of us who think only of ourselves. What we want takes priority over everything else. Some of the contestants fit into this mold as well.
    In my humble opinion, the show reflects society. Some people give because it’s a part of their soul while others give strictly out of duty–it’s what they’re “supposed” to do! Some of the contestants didn’t know how to give graciously (They put themselves above those who were receiving)while others were respectful and ever-mindful of the feelings of the recipients.
    This show should have the audience becoming more introspective. Which contestant are you most like? What are your motives in giving? Do you expect a return when you give? Do you give from your heart or do you feel an obligation to give?

  • Ashley

    To all who believe that this will turn into just another back-stabbing reality show: Was I the only one who noticed that, in the previews, it’s pointed out that the participants DON’T know they’re competing for anything? They decided to take part in this show for the opportunity to give beyond their normal means.

  • Anne Idell

    Being a Christian myself, I’ve watched Oprah from the beginning. I have been apart of her audience several times. I have taken her hand- crafted gifts and received a signed letter of appreciation and there is no question that she is a “Giver”, someone I greatly admire. Being a “Giver” is biblical and this is primarily why she’s so successful, in my opinion. However, this show “The Big Give”, has me a bit uneasy and I’m not quite sure why, except there seems to be so much going on. I watched the show with mixed emotions. I was happy, sad, anxious, confused, exhausted and glad it was over. If anyone should ask me, “How was Oprah’s new show”? I could only say, “CHAOTIC”.

  • Anne Idell

    One other comment about Oprah’s “The Big Give” show is the host, Nate.
    Nate was clearly out of his element and I felt his pain. He may get better with time, as the show progresses, but he was not the self- confident, cool, ever so talented “Interior Designer” we all know and love with his cute self. No doubt.

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