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Posted at 10:43 AM ET, 11/21/2007

An Oprah-Induced Pre-Holiday Hangover

By Liz Kelly

Last November, Oprah Winfrey scrapped her annual "Favorite Things" show in favor of promoting charitable works. Saying she wanted audience members to feel the magic of giving, Winfrey gave each audience member $1,000 to donate to the charity of one's choice.

That was then, this is now.

Yesterday, Oprah released the 2007 "Favorite Things" list meaning we need no longer fear braving the retail fray without a roadmap again. Instead, we'll descend on our local big box retailers (as early as midnight Thursday in some cases) en masse and armed with an Oprah-sanctioned list of camcorders (O likes the $799 Samsung), kitchen gadgets (if a $4,000 fridge is a gadget), boots (nothing but Uggs for Oprah) and this troubling ensemble that resembles nothing so much as some kind of Oprah cult uniform (handbook not included).

Not on the list? $20,000 worth of designer shoes (sorry Jessica Seinfeld).

Bah, humbug.

Here's the thing: Oprah's list -- and snowballing habit of handing out high-end toys -- has taken what used to be a show with some heart and turned it into "The Price Is Right." Instead of the shows of yesteryear, which built a solid following featuring advice and a critical light turned on societal ills, Oprah revels in playing a sponsorship-enabled Santa. Audience members get gift certificates, travel vouchers, even brand new cars (!).

Instead of an informed audience, Oprah has turned her followers into a merchandise militia. Watch as members of Tuesday's audience cry, pray and generally come unglued in the presence of their benefactress, who doled out items from this year's list:

(Video clip montage courtesy


Why should Martha Stewart and her own "good things" have sole sway over our shopping sprees? Isn't this the natural next step in an Oprah-approved lifestyle? Well, therein lies the difference. Stewart has never billed herself as anything other than an evangelizer of consumer culture. Somehow it seems as if the Oprah who fights the beef industry or breaks plagiarizing authors into a million little pieces shouldn't be telling me I need the Clarisonic Skin Care System ("It's a miracle massage for your face," Oprah says). Somehow it feels like the equivalent of one's therapist or spiritual leader casually working a Pizza Hut promo (try the Pizzone! Now go in peace.) into a sermon.

Now someone get that woman a Charlie Brown Christmas tree, stat.

By Liz Kelly  | November 21, 2007; 10:43 AM ET
Categories:  Oprah Winfrey, TV  
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