Who didn’t watch the Oprah show and feel horrible for James Frey? There’s something quite troubling about the way Oprah held a public stoning for disgraced memoir writer of the hit memoir, A Million Little Pieces on her show recently. While Winfrey was lauded for having the cajones to admit that the Great and Powerful Oz was wrong (hey, it happens) there hasn’t been enough debate about what was really going on. Hangdog Frey sat up there, taking it; taking Oprah’s “embarrassed and disappointed” lecture, which you could see in his eyes sounded all too familiar. He sat there taking the audience recoiling in horror when countless details of the book were exposed as lies, taking it as his own publisher, Nan Talese, played dumb. Does it make for good television, this kind of drama? Perhaps. But it also brings out an ugly side of the viewing public as well as the publishing industry and yes, Oprah herself. While she may have thought she was undoing the mess she’d helped create — building up Frey as a literary god and savior to drug addicts everywhere — and then ripping him down off the pedestal (the Oprah giveth, and the Oprah taketh away) what she really did was raise yet more issues about the backstory.Among the revelations is a story written way back in 2003 for the Minneapolis Star Tribune in (dug up by Slate.com in a recent story on the subject) in which the validity of Frey’s memoir was already being examined. Not only that, but Nan Talese is quoted in the piece:“’You have to remember when someone is writing in the first person, it is their memory as they recall it,” she said in an interview. “And memory is very selective; there’s no such thing as the whole story. If they took a lie detector test it would probably be true, but if that person had a witness all the way through, maybe it didn’t exactly happen that way. But that’s how they see it.”’She also addressed the lack of a disclaimer page – remember, this is in 2003: “It’s a total slip-up that we didn’t have a disclaimer page,” Talese said. “I’m embarrassed.” Apparently, the publisher’s lawyers only concerned themselves with people who might later sue. They didn’t particularly care about the events, ‘“Our lawyers are very, very careful,” she said, “There’s nothing libelous about removing one’s teeth without Novocaine.”And, as long as the money (and critical praise) was rolling in, no one was going to say squat. And when you have the television equivalent of the golden goose (Oprah) ready to skwack to the world about your book and make your writer a superstar, who is going to derail that gravy train? While she was at it, Oprah ought to have brought her producers on stage and reprimanded them for not doing their jobs in researching the Frey book – after all, how hard would it have been to turn up the Tribune article with a Lexus/Nexus search? More to the point, Talese ought to have brought it to the producer’s attention that there were potential problems or at least that this was a highly fictionalized memoir. Oprah didn’t even bother examining the reason Frey’s book was so wildly popular in the first place. It sold so well because it was impossible to put down. Frey had written it first as a novel but more than a dozen publishers rejected it. And Talese admitted on Oprah she wouldn’t have published it with a disclaimer – because how could she have sold it? We crave reality, stories of real people overcoming obstacles, “real life drama” is everywhere. And nowhere does it ever say “the people and this story are inspired by real events.” No one really wants to know, do they? Yes, it could be said Frey lied. Perhaps for dramatic effect, perhaps to protect real people. But the fault was not Frey’s alone and it wasn’t right, in fact it was downright creepy to see human beings at their worst, shaming someone who had already admitted wrongdoing already. Yes, Oprah embarrassed herself. But is her embarrassment anything compared to what Frey is suffering? To her it was one awkward moment; but his career is ruined. It was the publisher’s job to put a disclaimer page in the text or else break the story before The Smoking Gun got its hands on it. As we all know, the truth will out, it wants to be free.Notable TV This WeekThursday, February 2The Verdict (***), 7:30 p.m., FMC. Run Lola Run (***), 8 p.m., IFC. Gone in Sixty Seconds (**), 9 p.m., TBS.Jurassic Park (***), 9 p.m., USA.Friday, February 3Spirited Away (****), 7:30 p.m., TOON.Birthday Girl (***), 8 p.m., IFC.Grizzly Man (****), one of the best films of the year makes it to TV, 8 p.m., DISCOVERY.Fargo (****), 8 p.m., BRAVO.Saturday, February 4Barefoot in the Park (***), 8 p.m., TVLAND.Casino (***), 7:30 p.m., BRAVO. Celtic Woman, 9 p.m., KCET.Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (***), 8 p.m., ABC.Sunday, February 5Ice Age (***), 8 p.m., FX.Bleak House, really too depressing to watch but go ahead, 9 p.m., KCET.Inside the Actors Studio: Liza Minnelli! 9 p.m., BRAVO. Glengarry Glen Ross (****), 9:15 p.m., IFC.Monday, February 6 Dazed and Confused (***), 8 p.m., AMC.She’s Gotta Have It (***), 8 p.m., IFC. American Experience: Jesse James, 9 p.m., KCET.Dirty Pretty Things (***), 10 p.m., IFC.Tuesday, February 7Being John Malkovich (***), 9 p.m., LOGO.Criminal Minds, 9 p.m., CBS. Frontline: Sex Slaves, 9 p.m., KCET.Conversations With … John McCain, 10 p.m., KCET.Wednesday, February 8 The 48th Annual Grammy Awards, 8 p.m., CBS.African American Lives, 9 p.m., KCET.When Harry Met Sally (***), 9 p.m., OXYGEN.The Shawshank Redemption (****), 9 p.m., SPIKE.Turner Classic Movies Plays 360 Degrees of Oscar As it does every February, Turner Classic Movies (channel 157 in Santa Monica) will run nothing but movies that have won or been dominated for Oscars all month – 360 films in 33 days — today, February 1 through Saturday, March 3, to be precise – all uncut and commercial-free. The schedule format is a variation on the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game, with one film linked to the next by an actor who appears in both. For instance, the marathon began at 3 a.m. this morning with Mogambo, in which Ava Gardner co-starred. She also co-starred in the next film, Showboat, etc. It makes for a very eclectic mix that includes many of the greatest movies ever made. TCM, channel 157, all day and all night, for 33 days. Stay tuned – literally. For the complete schedule, go to www.turnerclassicmovies.com
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