“Oprah’s Big Give,” which debuted last night on ABC, offers reality TV the Winfrey way–sans back-stabbing, snarkiness, and rauchiness. So, will anyone watch it as it proceeds through its eight-week run? Put another way, does wholesome reality TV have a place amid the abundance of sleaze that typifies the genre?
In the show, contestants compete to give away money to help those in need. (Here at Beliefnet, we asked what you would do with such an opportunity, and you gave us some great answers that we compiled into a gallery that you can read here.)
According to Slate, the show “is a triumph of virtue, which leaves only the question of who would want to watch it.” We’ll know the answer to that question when the ratings for last night’s debut are released, but here’s hoping that America proved that reviewer wrong. Frankly, I’m getting tired of so-awful-they’re-great “American Idol” auditions and sex-crazed reality contestants virtually everywhere else.

But there’s more here than counter-programming, and that’s why I am so curious about whether “Big Give” will succeed. Commenters on this blog and many others routinely pine away for more wholesome TV viewing and criticize the rauchiness on television today–and take aim at whatever snarkiness we bloggers express when reveling in bad reality tv or mocking poor attempts at clean fare. Yes, it’s time, America, to put your viewing habits where your mouths are. If you really want wholesome, family-friendly reality programming, here’s your chance.
Sure, Extreme Makeover Home Edition does it and does it well, but that’s about the only show that’s succeeded at this holy endeavor. Amy Grant tried it last year in “Three Wishes,” but that didn’t last long. Can Oprah, the Queen of All Media, accomplish what the Queen of Christian Pop couldn’t? Time will tell. But if the show doesn’t succeed, don’t blame big media or corporate profit motives–the power, my friends, is with your remote control.

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