Monday 20 November 2017

That's more than enough, Oprah

YOU have to say one thing about 'Oprah Behind the Scenes': it delivers exactly what the title says.

Filmed during her farewell season, which must rank as the longest public goodbye in recorded human history, the series really does take you down the rabbit hole and into the world of Winfrey.

Whether you'd really want to be a part of that world, however, even for one of the six-figure salaries Oprah reportedly pays her loyal and valued employees, is another matter.

In certain quarters of the United States, criticising Oprah Winfrey is regarded as something like heresy. President Barack Obama -- for whom it's said her influence delivered a million votes -- has called her the most influential woman in the world.

She's worked tirelessly for the cause of African-Americans. She's kept alive the memory and spirit of Dr Martin Luther King. She's built schools in South Africa, changed the lives of countless deprived kids and got America into the habit of reading again through her TV show book club.

On the minus side, there's the nauseating sycophancy to the chosen few A-listers, the conspicuous, "look at me" philanthropy, the schmaltz and sentimentality of her TV interviews, and the endorsement of ropey cod-spiritual beliefs.

And, of course, there's the massive self-regard. The Chicago Tribune recently suggested she's the person who put the O into "ego". Oprah's ego is all over Behind the Scenes.

You can see it reflected in the eyes of the small army of panicky producers and underlings, who spent their time running around ensuring that Oprah is untouched by anything that might upset her.

It's said the Queen of England thinks the world smells of fresh paint; Oprah must think it smells of underlings' sweat.

The panic last night was over whether that day's guest, Jon Stewart of The Daily Show, would make it to the studio in time for taping.

But Oprah seemed more obsessed with the fact that Stewart had never invited her onto his show.

"I have never been invited on his show, why IS that?" she wondered aloud, ticking off all the people -- Leno, Letterman, Larry King -- who HAD invited her on.

Stewart arrived with minutes to spare and Oprah brought the matter up during the interview. "Do you know you've never invited me onto your show?" Clearly, this show of disrespect was gnawing at her. Stewart, who was there to publicise his Sanity Rally in Washington, promised to rectify things.

Amazingly, Oprah was still talking about it at the post-show meeting. And at the pre-show production meeting the following day. Taking matters into her own hands, she decided to ring Stewart and invite herself.

Thus in a carefully rehearsed moment of spontaneity, Oprah appeared, via satellite link, on that night's Daily Show and pledged to bring Stewart's entire studio audience on an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington for the Sanity Rally. Amid the hysterical yelps, screams and applause, the words "bandwagon" and "jumping" came to mind.

I suppose you could commend Winfrey for allowing herself to be seen in a less than flattering light. Or you could argue that the first sign of gross egotism is that the gross egotist in question isn't even aware they're being egotistical.

It's easy to be snobbish about Britain's National Television Awards, which are voted on by "the public" -- aka the readers of Radio Times, The Sun and that bible of the brain-dead Heat magazine.

So let's be snobbish: they're a crock.

Michael McIntyre, who won, is NOT funnier than Harry Hill, who didn't. There is more to television drama than Downton Abbey, which won, and Doctor Who, which didn't. As for naming The X Factor best entertainment programme, that's a joke without a punchline.

True, it was nice that they gave Jonathan Ross a special recognition award -- until you remembered they gave one to Jeremy Clarkson a few years ago.

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