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Oprah's 'Pay it Forward' show costly for audience paying to revisit

I wondered on Wednesday about Oprah's so-called "Pay it Forward" show, where she gave audience members $1000 debit cards, loaned them video cameras, and told them to go out and do good works in a much-ballyhoed replacement for her "favorite things" holiday show. So charitable, I thought.

And then the comments started coming.

Audience members were asked to come back for the wrap-up show at their own expense. And they did, expecting (it seems) that their difficult journeys of giving back would be featured. Everybody loves a little fame, or at least thanks, for their efforts. And, let's face it, if Oprah asked you to film something you'd done, and then come back to the show, wouldn't you come? Of course you would.

Except that, once back in the studio audience, only a very few of the audience members' stories were told. The audience was also informed they couldn't keep the video cameras -- the tax burden would be too much (despite, as some commenters mentioned, the fact that the expense to return to Chicago for the taping was many times greater than any tax burden). Those who wrote in weren't so upset that their exploits went unwatched (despite the fact that they'd worked very hard to execute and record the tale of their response to Oprah's challenge) -- they were more hurt that the producers asked them all back without mentioning which clips would be shown. As Connie Miller said, "When the producers called the audience to return they should have informed them that their particular stories were not going to be highlighted so they could choose to get a pat on the back from Oprah from home and not pay additional funds to come back."

The final injury? When the audience members were in the waiting room, the producers played reels of past "Favorite Things" shows, so the charitable and entirely gift-free viewers could see the delight as audience members of years past discovered free gift ... after free gift ... after free gift.

Sheesh. At least give them a pashmina shawl, Oprah!

Posted Nov 24th 2006 by Sarah Gilbert

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