Friday, December 10, 2010


I'm not sure that I would term anyone Babs featured on her back-to-back specials last night as fascinating, except maybe Betty White, who got short-shrift. And why was Walters's post-script such a blatant plea for sympathy, that "it was so hard for her to do two specials in a row?" No one is forcing you ...

Let's start with Oprah, who at least got an hour, (or much less, considering all the commercial breaks). I liked it when Oprah said that having celebrities on her show was not her favorite thing, as they were mostly there to sell product—a new movie, book, whatever. Of course her sitting down with Barbara Walters was just one big ad for her new television network. Irony ...

I don't watch Oprah, as the television doesn't go on around here during the day during the week. But I've seen plenty of her shows in the past. I love how she literally puts her money—and lots more than I realized—where her mouth is. And I don't just mean the crazy give-aways, although that's part of her obvious desire to give back to her fans. I love her love of books and reading. I think that she is extremely smart and that her new network will be very successful. I also think she is down-to-earth while at the same time being incredibly full of herself. OK, she's a little fascinating.

You can never completely quash gay rumors. For whatever reason, being publicly labeled or identified as gay still seems to be the ultimate gossip. It's a shame that Oprah has to "authenticate" her two closest relationships, but she treated Barbara's intrusive questions honestly and with grace and a little bit of shocked outrage. She's straight, America. Get over it.

What I found even more intrusive than the gay fol-de-rol was Barbara's needling questions about why Oprah didn't become a parent. What was the purpose of those questions, if not to make Oprah feel bad or defensive? Why should we know what her private decisions on that subject might be? She and her partner made a choice, just like they made a choice to not marry. Why, almost eleven years into the 21st century are we still trying to publicly shame people or feign surprise when they don't walk the most familiar paths in our society?

Barbara implied that she was somehow superior to Oprah, as she had a child—but then admitted her daughter was not always happy with a mother who put career first—and then, even more strangely, told O to call her if she ever needed advice in that area, as if she still might choose a path to motherhood. Talk about a lack of self-awareness. I think Oprah will no longer be idolizing Barbara ... I'm a mom, raising my child on my own, but I don't feel the need to compare myself to others by my status. I'm not superior to folks who haven't had a child. Nor am I inferior to families with two parents. I have encountered those outdated attitudes and prejudices. I guess I'm a little shocked that someone with Oprah's bucks and position in society still has to put up with that shit too.

I'm not sure if it was conscious on Walters's part or not, but parenting seemed to be a subtext for many of the brief segments in the second hour—"the most fascinating people of 2010." Uh huh. One of the better interviews was Justin Bieber. Yes, Bieber. Raised by a "very strict" single mom, the kid was completely at ease and charming with Walters. In fact he was the only one who seemed to shake her out of her View persona. He is obviously talented. Whether he becomes more than just this year's sensation remains to be seen, but he looks to have a strong foundation at present.

Betty White could gave easily been devoted the whole hour. Why not talk about her long career in television or why an almost ninety-year old lady struck a chord with so many people this year? In our youth-obsessed culture? No, Barbara just asked her if she was still getting any. Looking for some tips? Sandra Bullock didn't fare much better. Here would have been an opportunity to really talk to a woman who has hit the heights and the depths in a short time-frame. A new mom, going forward on her own. But it was a gloss not even worthy of People or InTouch. Jennifer Lopez will be a judge on American Idol. This is fascinating? Why? No reason was given. Why not interview Simon Cowell about why he had enough? What I took from this—JLo's kids are adorable.

And then there was Sarah Palin. I'm no fan, and certainly no supporter, but it was strange to me to see Barbara suddenly put on her interrogator's hard-hat with Palin, when everyone else got the fluffy approach. Walters's dislike became increasingly evident throughout the interview and that was not exactly fair or even good television.

I still don't get a certain segment of America's fascination with this woman and her brood. The naked ambition of her husband was unpleasant to watch—"Yes, I would like to see her as President," stated while he was perched on the arm of his wife's chair, but he couldn't even take off his stupid baseball cap in front of two ladies and on national television. I can only hope and pray that he is seriously deluded. The only fascinating aspect of the interview was trying to figure out why Palin seemed so pissed off. At everybody, all the time, who might, well, piss her off. I try to keep an open mind, but they both just sounded like rubes. People who don't know how to behave properly in public. And certainly not people I would trust to speak for me or for anyone. Their unprofessionalism is more than a little shocking after all this time in the spotlight that they relentlessly pursue.

The rest of Barbara's victims are hardly worth mentioning. The cast of The Jersey Shore (a little bit of a shark jump here, dontcha think?), Kate Middleton (hardly a scoop), LeBron James (who will likely be far more fascinating next year), Mark Zuckerberg—was there even an interview there? He might be fascinating, but you'd never know from this show. At the end she did pick someone newsworthy in her choice of General Petraeus as her most fascinating person of the year. He was certainly the subject of most substance, but it pains me to think of what he is trying to do in Afghanistan being called "fascinating."

I'm not sure there is a place for these silly sorts of shows anymore. The Internet can send a meme around in seconds, with much more interesting lists and choices made by people from around the world. We all have opinions. Why are Barbara's and her staff's any more fascinating than ours? Go on, meme it out. Your most fascinating people of 2010. And then Barbara won't have to work so hard. Or complain about it.
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