Tag Archives: oprah

POPtalk: This Doesn’t Work For Me, Oprah

Oprah in the control room

Please join me at my new blog Poptimistic—the fresh, frank, fun outlook on life. Like Oprah, my life has grown from a single TV show into an entire network.  Thanks to the success of Alphabet City, my award-winning humorous book and blog about my sitcom life, I’m thrilled to launch a new online network called Poptimisitic.  With that charming gay Mary Tyler Moore spirit you know and love, Poptimistic has even more room to explore a fun, fresh, frank approach to life.  So check out my line-up of shows about relationships, food, travel and culture, and start living a Poptimisitic life!

As I make final preparations to launch my own online network known as Poptimistic.com (hopefully debuting end of this month), I’m playing close attention to Oprah and her new programming venture.  Confession: my latest guilty pleasure is OWN’s Season 25: Oprah Behind-the-Scenes.  Please tell me you are at least Tivo-ing this delicious staged morsel of Oprah goodness peppered occasionally with sideways snarky glances.

Jake at my birthday

When my friend Keith tipped me off to the show over my birthday brunch at ABC Kitchen where Jake Gyllenhaal was lurking nearby (gratuitous name dropping ala Oprah), I first thought, “I’ve lived in that world and couldn’t possibly find it particularly interesting.”  Boy howdy was I wrong.  I’m captivated by the fact that Oprah—a woman who espouses we should all live our best/balanced life—runs an empire surrounding herself with workaholics, dedicated to serving their master, many of whom seem unhappy and unhealthy.  The fact that none of the producers, or even Oprah, acknowledge that irony makes for great television.

Now I’m not one of those people who must have a daily Oprah fix—but I have loved her since I was 16 and found myself in snowy Chicago on Thanksgiving watching her local show and laughing at the gratuitous amount of fur she was wearing to anchor coverage of the parade.  At the time I thought, “This woman thinks she’s big.”  Little did I know.  On Season 25, Oprah makes frequent references in her individual interview featuring much better lighting than her underlings get, that she’s not just filming a TV show, she’s creating a “platform.”  I like that, a platform.  Hey, I don’t just write a blog—this is a platform.  Thanks, Oprah!

A producer huddles with The Judds sans Ashley

What really makes this series hum along is all the manufactured tension.  Will The Judd’s—Naomi and daughter Wynonna, without sister Ashley—in their 17th appearance on the show talk about anything interesting and answer the question, “How is Ashley doing?”  The producers breathe a sigh of relief when Naomi says Ashley is in the Congo as a Global Ambassador for YouthAIDS and just graduated from Harvard.  Wow, can anyone really blame Ashley for not taking a break from that “platform” to show up rehash old shit?

My favorite part of Judd episode is when the mother and daughter talk about the communication skills they’ve learned in therapy together.  Wynonna says that when she asks for something and someone says “no,” her response is, “This doesn’t work for me.”  Oprah nearly falls out of her chair.  Later, recapping the show with her producer team while for some reason her hair is being teased in rollers, she tells the team that she’s had an “A-ha moment.”  That at least three times a day Oprah is going to start saying, “This doesn’t work for me.”

My question:  Really?  How often is that phrase going to come in handy, Oprah?  As far as I can tell, no one’s saying “no” to Oprah.  I mean, can you imagine what would happen if you did?

Later, after Oprah weirdly insults Gayle’s house made untidy by children, one of the producers says that after all these years, what makes it all worth while, is moments like that—when they can still create a show that can give Oprah a revelation.  Indeed, that’s what the platform is about—Oprah.

Oh, believe me, I’ll keep watching, and trying to create my own pOptimistic revelations.

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Spit List

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul’s celebrity hatred game becomes a Thanksgiving tradition.

Since I moved to the Big Apple, Thanksgiving has become my all-time favorite holiday.  Instead of traveling to spend stress-induced time with family, I gather friends in my home for a big meal.  After we pile our plates with food and pour copious amounts of wine, we go around the table and announce the person we would most like to spit on.  That’s right, we don’t waste time being sappy and thankful.  Instead, we use it as an opportunity to vent frustration with famous faces.  The Spit List as we call it has a long and storied history, having been created by Susan and me in our days at Condé Nast.  CLICK HERE to read a full excerpt about the origins, including a peek inside the famed Condé Nast cafeteria, and a dig at Chloe Sevigny.

For those of you rushing to adopt the game as a conversation starter at your own feast and too busy to read the excerpt, let me give a quick overview of the ground rules:

  • Spitting on someone is a real commitment based upon a visceral reaction; it comes from the gut.  There really is no rhyme or reason—so there’s no arguing allowed once someone announces their “spitee.”  They are allowed to give some background, but not required to defend their choice per se.
  • You can only spit on famous people—someone that you might see on a red carpet.  It can’t be Bob in accounting.
  • Your Spit List doesn’t have to be long, and people can move on and off the list over time.  Scarlett Johansson was on my very first list, but has moved off.

Friends who have enjoyed The Spit List game at my table report that it has become like a drug for them—they spend all year looking forward to creating their list.  If they miss Thanksgiving at my house, they phone or email in their entry.  Some have tried exporting it to their family gatherings with limited success.  My friend Aimee spent some time in Liberia but was frustrated in her attempts to explain the game to citizens of a post-war torn republic.

Over the years, we have had quite a diverse group of honorees—Jennifer Aniston has moved on and off various people’s lists; not surprisingly both Suze Orman and Oprah have appeared more than once.  I imagine at least Oprah will be back this year.

Last year, Angela tried expanding it beyond just celebrities to broader concepts like the “blogosphere.”  The judges are still out on whether pop culture concepts will be a permanent category addition to The Spit List.

This year I’m extra lucky—two of my perennial Spit List favorites have collided: the Vampires of Twilight and Dakota Fanning.  I’m already getting choked up.

Have a heartwarming holiday, and do report back on your own Spit List.

Excerpt from Alphabet City’s Episode 11: Bold Faced Names

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