Thursday, January 3, 2008

The "Big O"

No . . . not that "O."

I've developed some strong opinions about the Obama-endorsing, Spanx-wearing, Color Purple-producing queen of daytime TV, Miss Oprah Winfrey. As a matter of fact, I have a thing or two to say about all three of daytime's reigning royalty - Martha, Oprah and Ellen.

You see, over the last year, I've logged countless hours viewing and analyzing this trio. During Hyper CVAD stays at Hotel Hope, you could find me glued to Martha at 10 am, Oprah at 3 pm, followed by Ellen at 4. The habit would continue for a few days after I returned home. (I could always tell how good I was feeling by how much daytime TV I was ingesting.) I was a captive audience during my three stints at harvesting stem cells at City of Hope and then again during my stem cell transplant.

For the record, I never gave these programs my full attention. I watched while blogging, surfing the web, chatting on the phone or reading. And I never devolved into the type of passive viewer who runs out and buys the latest must-have luxury item from the "O" list. Oh, no, I generated, not lost, brain cells because I was a critical viewer. (Or at least that's what I told myself.)

Martha Stewart: Who doesn't love to hate the ultimate domestic doyenne? And who hasn't fantasized about slinging a soufflé at the woman whose name has become synonymous with detail-oriented perfection, gracious living and the relentless pursuit of pretension?

So why can't I get enough of her? I think it's because she knows she's a perfectionistic, condescending know-it-all, whether she's doing a segment with super-chef Mario Batali or former president Bill Clinton.

To her credit, she's improved dramatically from season one. I haven't witnessed a single one of those annoying, "What was it like to work with (insert name of famous co-star)?" questions. Interviewers who ask this question should have the earth open up and immediately swallow them. Or, at the very least, have a souffle slammed in their faces.

And Martha seems to be cutting back on the "it's all about me" moments that plagued her earlier shows. I'll never forget season one's segment with actress Rashida Jones (of The Office), daughter of Quincy Jones and Mod Squad's Peggy Lipton. Martha just had to tell the world, "Oh, I just adore your father. You know I gave him a fantastic birthday party on my fantastic yacht near the fantastic island of St. Bart's."

I don't envy the yacht or the island hopping, but, I admit, I do turn a little green over her hair (when I had a head of my own, I frequently brought Martha's head shot to my hair dresser), her Hermes Birkin bag, her blue-egg-laying chickens, her baby donkeys, her vision and her ability to bounce back after stock plunges, prison sentences and dismal ratings on The Apprentice. (I know a thing or two about bouncing back.)

Ellen DeGeneres:
I love this woman, and she can do no wrong.

Oprah Winfrey:
Without a doubt, she's one of the most influential women on the planet with the ability to turn obscure book-titles into best sellers and fledgling mompreneurs into multi-million-dollar success stories.

She's at her best when she leans in and drawls, "Girl-friend," and then dishes about pesky panty lines, dieting dilemmas or an affinity for pomegranate martinis. After all, she's one of us, but, unlike us, she can demonstrate how to smooth those lines, tackle those dieting snafus or whip up the perfect batch of pominis. And, in the process, someone's bound to become a millionaire.

She's at her worst during the "tough" interviews. I squirmed when she tried (unsuccessfully) to get reclusive Cormac McCarthy, author of Oprah Book Club selection "The Road," to open up about his life and work. I shifted uncomfortably during her awkward interview with actor/director Sean Penn.

But the worst moment came during the "Live Your Best Life" segment at Miraval Resort and Spa in Tucson, Arizona. 60 lucky women (out of 50,000 entries) were selected for the life-altering, four-night stay at the luxury resort. The retreat was designed to "help each contest winner make lasting transformations for a more balanced, mindful, joyous, healthy, fulfilling life." That meant emotional and physical work were as important as poolside pampering.

During the "swing and a prayer" recreational therapy exercise, Oprah's best buddy Gayle confessed that "fear" was keeping her from letting go. This fear became fodder for Oprah's joy. She taunted teased and berated Gayle until she "let go" on the high-flying swing. And what did Gayle take away from this exercise? “That was very frightening to me and I’ll never do that again," she announced with terror. Trust me: This was not the desired response, but it was all hilarious to Oprah.

Now here's what I don't understand. George and I have participated in dozens of recreational therapy exercises with other families. We had fun, but the number one rule was always SAFETY - both physical and emotional. Why did the Miraval therapist allow Oprah to create an unsafe atmosphere? If any of us parents had engaged in that same Oprah-like taunting, we would have been gently reprimanded. Did it occur to Oprah that taking pleasure from someone else's pain could be creating an unsafe environment for the 60 other guests?

Since that stellar television moment, I've stopped tuning in to Oprah at 3 pm. And as my blood counts and energy rise and my calendar fills up, I'm no longer in the market for daytime TV. As Martha would say, that's a good thing.

1 comment:

Lilli said...

You are so informative. I did not know Quincy Jones and Peggy Lipton were a couple (or married? at some time?). Thanks for sharing your own bit of now very old gossip.