The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
on entertainment and media

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Why is Oprah giving Michael Moore the brushoff?

September 24, 2009 | 12:25 pm

If you had your TV and radio blaring Wednesday, it was pretty much impossible to avoid seeing or hearing Michael Moore everywhere you turned as the portly filmmaker made the media rounds, touting his new film, "Capitalism: A Love Story," which opened that day in New York and Los Angeles. (It goes wide Oct. 2.) Moore was on "Good Morning America" and "Larry King Live," along with Howard Stern's radio show and Martha Stewart's syndicated TV show.


But what happened to his appearance on "Oprah," the show that every filmmaker, author and pop star would kill to appear on, since having Oprah's de facto endorsement sells more books, films and CDs than any other piece of TV real estate? When I turned on "Oprah," all I saw was Mackenzie Phillips, plugging her new book, which largely seems newsworthy because it reveals that as a teenager she frequently had sex with her father, John Phillips, the deceased founder of the Mamas and the Papas.

Oprah seemed sympathetic, repeatedly furrowing her lovely brow, but I have to admit that all I could think about was -- hey, where's Michael Moore? You may recall that we reported earlier this month that Overture Films, who's releasing Moore's film, had embargoed all interviews until this Wednesday, since Moore was scheduled to appear on "Oprah" Sept. 22. Eager to protect its exclusive, La Winfrey wanted all of Moore's appearances and interviews held until after he appeared on her show. (Moore was on Jay Leno's show last week, but that was scheduled before the Oprah appearance had been booked.)

But guess what? The embargo fell apart at some point in the past few weeks after Oprah mysteriously backed out of the Moore interview. While Overture hasn't given up all hope, insiders acknowledge that Moore is no longer on the Oprah schedule and say that its doubtful that a full-scale interview will ever occur.

The "Oprah" brain trust hasn't given any official reason for giving Moore the cold shoulder, But there are two theories floating around. No. 1: With his gift for gab and fondness for controversy, Moore is a great guest for most talk shows, but not "Oprah," which prefers some sort of dramatic revelation -- like, say, having sex with your pop -- which allows its host an opportunity to either empathize or offer a stern rebuke. No. 2: As one of the richest women in America who has turned herself into a hugely successful commercial brand, Oprah may have decided that she might leave herself open to charges of hypocrisy by hosting a show promoting a movie that preaches against the evils of capitalism.

I wouldn't worry about Moore, who has an unfailing knack for attracting media attention, so I suspect he'll still log plenty of more TV appearances in the coming days. But "Oprah," the Moby Dick of media opportunities, increasingly looks like the one that got away.  



Photo of Oprah Winfrey by Chris Pizzello/AP.