Lindsay's Oprah Reality Check

Oprah Winfrey cares about Lindsay Lohan. But are viewers willing to give the star-crossed young actress another final chance?

By Jere Hester
|  Monday, Mar 10, 2014  |  Updated 6:33 AM CDT
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Lindsay Lohan's latest comeback from rehab is the subject of a new show on Oprah Winfrey's OWN channel.

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The build-up to “Lindsay” included a much-played clip in which Oprah Winfrey bluntly warns Lindsay Lohan to “cut the bull****." The show, which debuted Sunday on Winfrey’s OWN channel, got off to a far milder start, with the daytime talk show legend telling the star-crossed former child star, “I want you to win.” 

Winfrey, the world’s supportive TV friend, clearly cares about Lohan, whose interrelated problems with family, alcohol and the law have overshadowed her acting talent. But while anyone with a heart is rooting for Lohan to turn her life around, it’s far from certain viewers will stick around to witness the BS that began to unfold during Sunday’s initial installment.
 
Lohan says a lot of the right things to Winfrey and the cameras: She knows this is her “last shot.” She “feels different.” She’s finding “inner peace.”
 
Her words, in the context of the show, offer the disturbing suggestion that Lohan is linking her public struggle for stability to the resurrection of her career nearly a decade after her peak in “Mean Girls.” It’s difficult to watch “Lindsay” without thinking she might be better off if nobody was watching.
 
For all her talk about “inner peace,” there are plenty of signs of outer chaos as Lohan uses the paparazzi as an excuse to miss an AA meeting. She makes her assistant move her heap of clothes and junk from one hotel room to another because she’s feeling claustrophobic. She breaks down and walks off a shoot when she decides – not unreasonably – that a friend is taking advantage of her.
 
"Lindsay" is billed as an eight-part "docu-series" in an apparent bid to separate the program – and Winfrey – from the often-exploitative Reality TV genre. The show certainly isn't "Keeping up with the Lohans" – there aren’t signs of staging the action or manufacturing conflict.
 
"Lindsay" is less Reality TV than reality check TV, even if most folks in recovery aren’t fortunate enough to have a sobriety coach, drivers and assistants. Still, “Lindsay” succeeds in capturing the sadness, confusion and fragility of Lohan’s post-rehab life. She’s striving to emerge from the too-high pile of troubled former child stars  – a mound of misery that includes Michael Jackson, the most talented and most tragic of them all.
 
Amanda Bynes, who experienced unfortunate public breakdown, recently tweeted to let her fans know she’s okay and in school. Hopefully, that’s last we’ll hear from Bynes for a while as she gets her life together. 
 
Lohan, who, like Bynes, is 27, can’t keep away from the public eye: She’s set to appear on “Two Broke Girls” April 14, and is slated to start filming a movie next month. On Thursday, she promoted “Lindsay” on “The Tonight Show,” seeming in good spirits as she told Jimmy Fallon she takes comfort in knowing Winfrey is always just a call away. As for her many problems, Lohan told Fallon, “That’s the past.”
 
The past may not be as distant as Lohan would like. The cameras began following her just six months ago, days after she finished her latest rehab stint.
 
Previews suggest that Winfrey’s tough talk comes in the next episode. But if Lohan’s going to “win,” she’s needs to take control of her life – whether or not Oprah or the rest of us are watching.

 

Jere Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.

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