There's a Golden Rule in America: you can take on virtually anyone on the political right or left and find plenty of support. However, there remains one iconic presence that who is seemingly immune from criticism: Oprah Winfrey. No one denies that the Queen of TV has used her influence and wealth to benefit needy people. However, pundit Bill Maher takes her on for her mega-rated annual "Favorite Things" show in which she lavishes incredible gifts on audience members. They range from free cruises to Australia to new cars. Maher criticizes Winfrey, who fashions herself a "spiritual" person, for perpetuating America's obsession with defining happiness by owning materialistic goods, which Maher categorizes as "crap". He uses video clips to illustrate the virtually insane reactions of the audiences members as they are awarded these prizes. He also uses clips from other TV shows in which recipients of gifts act equally crazy. What he fails to point out is that at least this year's recipients on Oprah's program were all chosen on the basis of notable charitable work they have done. Still, the almost lunatic reaction of the recipients gives credence to Maher's criticisms, especially in an era in which many American's find themselves deep in debt at least in part due to wreckless over-spending on materialistic goods. These people look like they revere Winfrey as a virtual religious leader on the basis of getting some free loot. None of this is really new. At least Winfrey's audience is demeaning themselves on the basis of receiving some pretty expensive prizes. However, back in the 60s and 70s, people would do even crazier things on Let's Make a Deal and often walk away with some boxes of Rice-a-Roni and a home edition of the game. Click here to view Maher's "Christmas message".
Clay Cole, perhaps the only host of a rock 'n roll TV variety show to rival the popularlity of Dick Clark in the 1960s, has died at age 72. Cole helped popularize such bands and singers as The Beatles, The Who, Neil Diamond, The Doors and The Rolling Stones (though he loathed their unkempt appearance). Cole was co-starred with Chubby Checker in the film Twist Around the Clock. It was on a broadcast of Cole's show televised from New Jersey's legendary Palisades Amusement Park that Checker introduced his version of The Twist that would be synonymous with the his name. Cole's popularity endured enough to have had a fan club- The Claymates- in existence for the last 50 years. For more click here
In his review in the CNN, critic Tom Charity rightly calls out Hollywood for shamefully ignoring the Western film genre. He says the situation has at least momentarily been corrected with the release of True Grit. While Charity sells short the immense qualities of Henry Hathaway's original version of the film, he does say that the remake returns the genre to its former glory and ranks the film among the best of the year. Click here to read
It's been quite a week for premature death reports. First rumors circulated that Morgan Freeman had died, which was news to Mr. Freeman. Then came reports that Harrison Ford had publicly stated he was fed up with playing Indiana Jones and wanted the character to be killed off in the next installment of the series. Problem is that the story must have been reported by the same ace journalist who broke the Freeman death "scoop". Reps for Ford categorically deny he has any plans to terminate Jones with extreme prejudice. Click here for more