Monday, November 23, 2009

Oprah Winfrey announces the end of her daytime talk show

Oprah announced last week that her ratings dominant daytime television show, the basis of a multibillion-dollar media empire with millions of viewers, will end in 2011 after 25 seasons.

The Oprah Winfrey show began as a local Chicago morning program, siphoning viewers from the audience of the once dominant Phil Donahue Show; it would become exponentially larger than Donahue, Sally Jessy and a litany of others combined. Currently, Oprah’s show airs in 145 countries, and commands a weekly average of 42 million US viewers.

In perhaps the most memorable show, Ms. Winfrey stunned viewers and her audience alike by gifting 300 studio audience members with a brand-new Pontiac G-Six, which carried a sticker price of $28,500 and cost the talk show host $7 million. "You get a car! You get a car! You get a car! Everybody gets a car!" Oprah shouted as her studio audience opened gift boxes containg car keys given to them before the show.

The show transformed from quasi-ambush interviews to current event topics, big celebrity interviews, personal stories and Oprah’s own struggles with weight loss. Eventually, the show became a New York Times best-seller launcher vis-à-vis Oprah's Book Club. Perhaps the most infamous came in the fall of 2005 when author James Frey’s "A Million Little Pieces" exploded in sales after appearing on Winfrey’s show. Shortly after, it was discovered key elements of the addiction and recovery memoirs were a fabricated tale and Ms. Winfrey later vituperated Frey on a later show. The revelations of the book caused Frey’s literary agent to drop him.

Ms. Winfrey has had a stellar career and has announced plans to begin her own cable network, perhaps one that will air her own show. Oprah has long been philanthropic and has built girl's schools in South Africa as well as establishing her own charity in 1998, Oprah's Angel Network.

Ms. Winfrey has proved herself to be a capable, astute business woman and media mogul, may she have the best of luck in her future endeavors.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Triumph and tragedy, the life and death of Michael Jackson

A comment on western pop culture, Michael Jackson’s death has proved just as bizarre as his life. British cable’s Sky 1 broadcasted a live seance with psychic Derek Acorah, who attempted to contact the deceased King of Pop, enjoyed more than 600,000 viewers.

Michael Jackson was a microcosm of western, particularly American, pop culture. Rising to fame in the early 1980’s, the King of Pop smashed records with his records and was a triumphant figure, coming from a working-class family in an industrial neighborhood of Indiana, evolving into one of the most diverse and talented superstars the world has ever known.

But as his popularity and wealth grew, so his appearance changed, along with his behavior. The pop star would over the years make a number of bizarre moves, from his marriages to dangling an infant over a balcony. And in the midst of these public displays came allegations of sexual perversions, followed by law suits. The pop star would never be found guilty of criminal behavior but did pay dearly through civil actions.

All the while, his family hung like a noose around his neck, most notably, his father, Joe, who was seen by the public as the epitome of dysfunctional bad penny that popped-up again and again. And in the wake of his son’s death, has filed a 60 page motion to get what his son’s will cut him out of, money. Joe Jackson has leveled fraud accusations and claimed conflict-of-interests against John Branca and John McClain, the executor’s of Michael Jackson’s Trust Fund.

But Judge Mitchell Beckloff dismissed Joe Jackson's motion saying, "Joe Jackson takes none of this estate. This is a decision his son made", in effect shutting down Jackson’s challenge. Michael cut his father out of his will and bequeathed all his assets to his mother Katherine, his children and various charities.

As with so many celebrities that have found they’re way to the top, the same media that celebrated they’re triumphs, likewise championed any hint of scandal and exploited any personal tragedy. Michael Jackson was truly a very talented entertainer, singer, songwriter, and choreographer; he was also a troubled, erratic, strange, tragic clown. Sadly, he will likely more be remembered for the latter more than the former.

-- Killswitch Politick

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Andre Agassi’s agony

The World Anti-Doping Agency is seeking to probe whether any indictments can be brought against retired U.S. star Andre Agassi following his confession that he lied after failing a drug test in 1997 about taking crystal meth.

Agassi made the admissions in excerpts of his autobiography, Open. WADA director general David Howman said no action could be taken for use of substances on the banned list since the eight-year statute of limitations had run out. Moreover, because the drug use was not performance-enhancing and since the tennis pro took it in 1997 when he wasn’t winning anything, it's difficult to prove it helped him reach achievements or cheated the competition.

Excerpts from Open are stark and matter-of-fact. The former tennis champion is painfully honest about his painful life. Describing his body in a way that doesn’t mince words or leave any ambiguity about how much the demands of the sport continue to tax him long after retirement.

Any sort of pedestal fans may have placed him on is surely to be fractured by the reality Agassi describes. His childhood not a picture perfect storybook tale and his despair on what to do with his relationship with Brooke Shields. The book seems to be a reminder that fame and fortune don’t equal happiness and that no matter the social station a person may have, they are still human.

The hardcover of Open will be available November 9th, but will not be available as an e-book as publisher Knopf has not set a date for releasing a digital version (electronic editions of Sarah Palin's Going Rogue, Edward Kennedy's True Compass and Stephen King's Under the Dome have likewise been withheld as publishers are concerned that the rising e-market will take sales away from the more pricey hardcover counterparts).

-- Killswitch Politick

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Adam Lambert, a study in pop culture

American Idol runner-up, Adam Lambert, released his debut album, For Your Entertainment. For fans of 80’s hair metal/glam rock, the cover is reminiscent of Poison’s Look What the Cat Dragged In. While the jury is still out on the actual tracks, fans certainly aren’t happy with the cover art as they posted mixed opinions about “Glambert’s” album cover art on various internet forums and blogs.

The 'American Idol' runner-up appears with blue hair, a gloved hand and heavy makeup in his CD artwork debut;, a popular American Idol blogger, put up a poll to determine the public’s pulse. As of October 30th, out of 1,300 total votes, 32% (421 votes) “love it!” while 68% (879 votes) find it “Ewww.”

The artist described the album as, "…dance music with a glam-rock shuffle beat, in the style of T. Rex and 'Rock & Roll, Part 2,'" on KIIS-FM.

Lambert has been no stranger to controversy and media buzz since he began appearing on American Idol Season 8, when scandalous pictures surfaced that suggested the contestant was gay. Afterward, Lambert officially came out in a Rolling Stone cover story in June 2008, telling the music magazine, "I don't think it should be a surprise for anyone to hear that I'm gay."

Once revealed that he was gay, the singer enjoyed media-buzz galore which helped propel him to the finale of American Idol Season 8 where he would lose the reality contest to Kris Allen.

Just last week, Lambert split from his interior designer boyfriend Drake LaBry. His first single, "Time for Miracles," will be released on the "2012" soundtrack on Nov. 10. For Your Entertainment album will be released on Nov. 23, but the first single debuted on “Idol” host Ryan Seacrest’s L.A. radio station and it’s now playable at Lambert’s official website.

While the album may not contain critically acclaimed music and is being panned on its cover alone, it is a testament to the popular culture of America and the West abroad. It reinforces the fact our youth are more star struck than talent seeking. And in a YouTube, Facebook, MySpace era where everyone and their uncle is trying to be a star, it demonstrates there is no such thing as bad press.

-- Killswitch Politick

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