Sunday, June 25, 2006

The causal viewer's guide to the Oprah Winfrey show


Oprah enters to a standing ovation (if it's going to be a fun show), or is already on stage (if it isn't). Oprah stares into the camera reading the TelePrompTer about the topic of the show.

The first guest arrives to thunderous applause (if it's a fun show), or are already on stage (if it isn't). As their story is told, the camera cuts away to smiling faces (if it's a fun show), or horrified faces (if it isn't). Oprah reads the cue cards again announcing what will happen next. First commercial break.

Second segment with the guest (if it's a fun show), or similar guest/opposing viewpoint (if it isn't). Oprah asks the audience if they were aware of whatever it is that's being discussed; they weren't. Commercial break.

Completely different segment (if it's a fun show), or analysis (if it isn't). Audience members stand up and praise Oprah/the guest (if it's a fun show), or offer their brief sob story (if it isn't). Either way, Oprah invites the audience member to the stage for a hug and/or photo op. Commercial break.

Increasingly smaller segments, followed by increasingly longer commercial breaks at a "Zeno's Paradox" rate until she barely has time to say "welcome back" before she says "we'll be right back."

Credits roll.


Monday: "Bad Men and the women who love them"

Families are torn apart by lying/cheating/inconsiderate husbands. The victimized/stunned/enabling wives sob as they tell their story. Eyes glisten as the children are considered. Dr. Robin attempts to psychoanalyze as Oprah interrupts. The Bad Men on stage listen stoically, then promise Oprah they'll behave. Tissues and redemption follow.

Tuesday: "A danger/predator could be in your home/neighborhood that could threaten your children/health"

A Bad Man/toxin may be lurking. Oprah talks to a reformed Bad Man who tells all—not for the publicity, but in the hope that his story can prevent others from falling victim to the same tricks. Or, a doctor shows icky footage of nastiness. Eyes glisten as the children are considered. A list of simple precautions you MUST DO NOW is proffered. Hand-wringing and determined faces follow.

Wednesday: "Free stuff for the audience"

Something fluffy happens: a fashion show, cooking segment, shopping treats, or other manifestation of conspicuous consumption is shown. Oprah rolls her eyes, makes a gesture, or momentarily adopts a ghetto accent so that the mostly white audience can pretend that they have a black friend. The well-dressed soccer moms in the audience shriek with joy over the abundant free toys. Snacks and discarded packaging materials follow.

Thursday: "Compassionate cry-fest for the unfortunate people of somewhere"

Oprah/Oprah's friend travels to an impoverished/war-torn/devastated location. Plights are revealed. Oprah shows visible empathy. The audience is moved. Oprah writes a check. Audience members wish they had come on Wednesday. Tissues and schadenfreude follow.

Friday: "A celebrity plugs their latest thing"

A star comes on to plug their latest film/CD/book (which the audience has already screened, or which they will find under their seats), or to confess to past bad behavior—not for the publicity, but in the hope that his/her story can prevent others from making the same mistakes. Rapturous applause and redemption follow.

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