ABC’s new reality show, “Oprah’s Big Give,” gives contestants the opportunity to become Daddy Warbucks, helping people in need by giving them money from ABC. Unbeknownst to the contestants, whoever does the most good with his or her money will be rewarded with one million dollars at the end of the series.
The show contains the standard mix of reality show contestants, including a dot-com millionaire (who should be giving away his own damn money), an angry paraplegic and a former beauty queen. The contestants are each given a large amount of money and a project involving a different disadvantaged household, and whoever helps their house the most wins. After the contestants have completed the challenge, they’re rated by three judges: British chef Jamie Oliver, NFL tight end Tony Gonzalez, and . Chris Rock’s wife? Was Martha Stewart’s dog-walker busy with other projects? At the end of each episode, the person who made the least impact goes home.
It’s astounding that the contestants can even see through their tears when the producers confront them with incredibly sad situations. This is what “Oprah’s Big Give” is all about: making the audience feel terrible for people in need of help. And it succeeds. Between a recently widowed mother of twin girls, a homeless mother, a wounded Iraq War veteran and a woman who runs a house for mentally disabled people, it’s a wonder we can find the strength to channel-surf through all the depression.
This cloying appeal to our emotions is a slight rip-off of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” also on ABC. The show’s assumption that audiences have nothing better to do on Sunday nights than feel guilty is a little irritating. But the worst part is it might be true. “Extreme Makeover” has been on the air for over four years, and no one seems to get tired of the never-ending parade of unfortunate families – something “Big Give” also exploits.
The show features guest appearances from the likes of Jennifer Aniston, Andre Agassi and John Travolta – which means there’s a good chance we get to hear Oprah yell, “John Travolta!” in a tone more appropriate for “300.”
But “Big Give” has two important faults, which are ironically the same as Oprah’s: It’s boring and preachy. Yes, there are points where it can be amusing (suggesting a fashion show to decrease a medical student’s loans? Hilarious), but for the most part, it’s nothing but a guilt trip. Let us be greedy in peace, Oprah.
1.5 out of 5 stars.