the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Oprah’s Big Give


I watched this show on Sunday:  Oprah’s Big Give.   The very concept of the show made me uncomfortable:  An Amazing Race reality show where contestants compete by seeing who can give away the most stuff to poor, miserable, and disabled individuals in need.  It is a bizarre meshing of Oprah’s “My Favorite Things,” “Extreme Makeover Home Edition,” and “The Grapes of Wrath.”

Good Samaritan:   “Mr. CEO, I want to thank you so much for your generous donation.  This money will go a long way for opening a school for homeless children who lisp, and for hiring the finest in speech pathologists.”

CEO:  “Hold on, hold on.  Let’s wait until the cameraman shows up.”

Good Samaritan:  “What cameraman?”

CEO:  “Isn’t this donation for Oprah’s Big Give?  Aren’t you a contestant on the show?”

Good Samaritan:  “No, I told you on the phone I wanted to ask you for a donation for a school for homeless children who lisp.”

CEO:  “You’re doing this on your own?”

Good Samaritan:  “When I was younger, I lisped, and well, kids laughed…”

CEO:   “You mean you just called up and I let you in — and you have nothing to do with Oprah?”

Good Samaritan:  “Well, I saw how generous you were on her show last night and –“ 

CEO:  “Get the f**k out of here!  I don’t just let anyone walk into my office.  I thought this was another donation for Oprah’s show.  I thought this was going to be on TV.”

Good Samaritan:  “Oh, I’m sorry.  But what about the donation?”

CEO:  “Give me that check back.  You’re an idiot.  Why are you collecting money for charity for NOTHING when you can be doing it on Oprah’s show and winning a million dollars!”

Good Samaritan:  “A million dollars!?”

CEO:  “My father always said, “Charity begins at home.””

Good Samaritan:  “Hell, yeah.  Can I borrow your computer for a second.  Let me sign on at  I’ll come back here next time with Oprah’s camera crew.”

CEO:  “Now we’re talking charity!”


  1. MammaLoves

    I liked the interview update post. I tried to comment, but it was too late.

    I have an interview I need to put up. My interviewer never contacted me.

    And I love this post. Let’s teach folks that you shouldn’t do any charity unless there’s something in it for them. Great lesson for our kids.

    *stepping down off my soapbox now*

  2. Neil

    I put back the last post, Mammaloves. When you talk, I listen.

  3. Penelope

    WTF is Jamie Oliver doing there? He’s in danger of becoming Britain’s answer to Oprah!

  4. kapgar

    The whole concept of this show creeps me out.

  5. better safe than sorry

    didn’t watch it, actually never heard of it. i’ve seen just a portion of that extreme makeover show, i don’t understand why it’s necessary to give so much to one family, sharing the wealth with more families would make more sense to me, who needs that much stuff?

  6. blackbird

    I didn’t see it but I’m going to make a snap decision and say I don’t like it one little bit.

  7. brettdl

    No TV makes for happier fami-ly.

    When I was a kid, someone said to me something like, “As people approach their mortality, they give more to curry favor with the afterlife.” Perhaps the afterlife watches TV?

  8. cruisin-mom

    You are too funny! Oprah has really bugged me since she turned 50. That’s when she really lost it. This new show? Now she has completely “jumped the shark”. I tried to watch it, it’s a train wreck (in fact, thanks Neil, you just gave me an idea for a post).

  9. Finn

    I hate reality TV, but at least something good comes from this one.

  10. Neil

    Finn — I did have that same thought. At least this is presenting people being caring about those less fortunate. I just found it a little odd to frame it as a contest for money. But I guess someone can argue that at least it is still for charity. I’m just not sure what message is being sent. Is it “Do good.” or is it “Do good so YOU can get the benefits?” But then again, there are all these charity auctions and parties where people enjoy themselves to make money, so maybe it doesn’t matter how you get the money, as long as you do so. But it is going to be difficult to emulate what Oprah is doing here without using Oprah’s name to open doors. It seems that the show is more about HER than anything else.

  11. cruisin-mom

    It seems that the show is more about HER than anything else.
    Oprah has done so much good for people, there is no doubt about that. But, too much of what she does now, seems to be “about her”.

  12. Tuck

    I miss the King Family (even when they added “Katie Douglas”)…now that was the show that kept on giving.

  13. wendy

    2 things. I do believe that there is validity to “being the change you want to see in the world”. So the idea of giving has always appealed to me. However, the trick is to give without attatchment. To feeling superior. To anything. The trick is to give because you want only to give.

    There’s too much ego involved here. Good intention..really skewd result.

    PS… there are no “less fortunates” in my opinion. We are all brothers. I do not dare to judge myself more or less than anyone else.

    I would help a rich drowning man, as quickly as a poor drowing man…same healthy or disabled…white or black or purple.

    and on selfish days..mbe I wouldn’t help anybody.

    but there are no ratings in the quiet struggles of the soul…are there?

  14. Assertagirl

    The whole thing makes me feel a little dead inside. Shudder.

  15. Hilly

    Oh you know that Oprah….she doesn’t believe in charity without a camera crew ;).

  16. Tuck

    What is that phantom face to the left of Oprah’s head…looks Alien-like. Also, can’t you photo-shop yourself in there?…maybe next to Nate.

  17. bookfraud

    the best charity is anonymous. if oprah or the ceo were giving away her billions by the billion, a la bill gates or warren buffett, then the can get all the good p.r. they want.

    that said, sign me up for the show.

  18. churlita

    Thanks for articulating so well one of the problems I have with Oprah. She does give away a lot to people who need it. But why does she always insist on so much attention for it?

  19. Inarticulate Fumblings

    I watched the first episode of ‘Oprah’s Big Product Placement.’ That was the last time I’ll tune in.

  20. By Jane

    here’s what I said on my blog: hubris…eyelashes…watch out for the Jim Jones Kool-Aid.

    And now I wondering if Oprah’s Catholic, cause if so, the Pope just called unseemingly wealth one of the deadly sins!

  21. Marge

    Here’s what I want to see. Let’s visit the winner(s) a year from now and see just what they did with the money they won. If they are sincere or learned anything then they gave some of it away.

    Charity is not a one-time effeort you make for validation and ratings. It’s supposed to be an intergrated part of your lifestyle and personal belief system.

  22. Heidi

    Yup, I like the quiet kinda giving too.

    By the way, at this point, the participants don’t know there’s a cool million waiting for the winner.

  23. sassy

    OK so call me a cynic, but don’t you think that at least 80 percent of the people comment-judging will watch the show? If for no other reason than to judge it?

    Personally Oprah annoys me, but heck, I live in France, so I don’t have to deal with her. But YOU KNWO that shows that annoy people have a huge success. We Americans so love feeling superior to the television we watch, don’t we? (Remember : Bev Hills 90210 – 10 YEARS RUNNING.)

    Just saying…

  24. ingrid

    I definitely get and agree with the whole “ew!” element of people flaunting their altruism…

    But at the same time, I’ve worked for a few charities, and we never particularly worried about the motives of those giving. We were just happy to have funds to pursue our goals.

  25. andrea

    I’m the bitch who doesn’t like Oprah. And there is something icky about the show. However, if she showed up at my door and gave my a whole ton of stuff, I might like her a little. I’m shallow that way!

  26. ren.kat

    Remember 911 2002. My remembrance poem included the two emails I got. One asking me to commemorate the day by lighting a candle. Then, about a week later, they asked me to do it again because someone wanted to take a satellite picture. It would be tragic if people only cared about world hunger when they see some movie-tart spooning oatmeal into a cinematically moving mouth. Keep bitiching!

  27. ren.kat

    or just bitching would be fine.

  28. Neil

    Heidi — C’mon, have you ever seen a reality show where they don’t win something at the end? They know there will be a prize at the end. Why even give the prize then?

    I’ll be impressed if the winner gives the whole thing to charity.

    Ingrid — And you are right. I didn’t really mean to make fun of the CEO for giving. I was more mocking the Oprah show as a model for the average person to help others without using her name as a calling card.

  29. ingrid

    I completely agree Neil. It strikes me the same way as the huge charity balls on which people spend all kinds of money to attend, money on clothing etc etc while those funds could have gone a long way in and of themselves. It’s a weird thing though, what motivates people to give…

  30. Heidi

    [Hanging head.] You’re right, Neil. There’s’ always a prize. And this is not just any old reality show, but one with Oprah, the queen of giveaways. Still, good things are coming out of it for the recipients. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

  31. Mark

    And how do you people give, those that are criticizing this show? Do you give openly or in private, not telling anyone, not doing it for a write off, not announcing to your friends and family in any way, not doing it because you feel guilty, or you want to feel better in some way, because if you do any of these things, then you are a hypocrite.

    Television is a business. Remind yourselves of that before you convince yourselves that you’d do otherwise if you were in someone else’s shoes.

  32. Neil

    Mark, you make a good point. Most of us would probably fall into that hypocritical category. But we are small fry compared to a network show advocating giving as some sort of game show. I would rather see a show about real people giving of their time and money, inspiring others to do the same. What do I get out of this show, other than it is cool to be Oprah?! Even the title, “Oprah’s Big Give,” tells you what the show is really about.

  33. Mark

    The title is about marketing. If you call it, say, THE BIG GIVE, many people that know and love Oprah might not tune in. By putting her name on it, it guarantee’s that there will be no confusion as to who is the Executive Producer of the show and if you are a fan, you might want to watch. That’s marketing. It would be foolish not to include her name.

    What about this show says it’s cool to be Oprah? This show has nothing to do with Oprah’s life. Sure, they do use some of the shows money, but contrary to popular belief, ABC is the network here, not Oprah. It’s their money.

    If those of you out there can set aside your personal disgust for Oprah and the silly conventions that reality TV has entrapped itself with, there are moments in each episode of just plain human beings connecting with other plain human beings and helping them to the best of their current abilities.

  34. B.Granger

    Sun.Mar.30 Background music so loud, often drowned out the voices of the giver or receiver.

  35. Gina

    Oprah gives advice on relationships, but has a boy friend who is a door mat … gives advice on marriage, but has never been married … gives advice on child rearing, but has no children … gives advice on Obama, but was a member of Jeremiah Wright’s anti-American racist church for several years. Now, her white women’s audience, which made Oprah rich, wants to know more about Sarah Palin, but Oprah says NO !!!

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