Oprah's Big Give turned out to be just that for ABC Sunday night, as Oprah Winfrey's first regular primetime TV show debuted with the highest numbers of the night. The reality show, in which contestants are sent across the country to give away money and "change the lives of total strangers," captured a 9.8 rating and a 15 share (15.55 million viewers). It drew mixed reaction from critics. "It's inspiring to see people devote their time and energy to something larger than themselves, placing themselves into utterly foreign environments and selflessly soliciting help," Joe Caramanica wrote in The Los Angeles Times. Alessandra Stanley observed in the New York Times: "The series is both genuinely affecting and gratingly affected, a made-for-TV exploitation of hardship and bathos that nevertheless does tug at the heartstrings. Oprah's Big Give is not as cheesy as a lot of other reality shows. Ms. Winfrey is above all a class act." But Maureen Ryan asked in the Chicago Tribune: "How many of those corporate donations were lined up in advance and came from companies that were eager to be part of a prime-time Oprah endeavor? There's one segment shot at a Target store that might as well be a commercial for the retailer. And it's strange that the staples of reality television -- fighting and the ejection of an unsuccessful player -- come to the fore in a show that's supposed to be about altruism." And Tom Shales in the Washington Post summed up: "The unsavory aura of exploitation is hard to ignore."




03/03/2008