Barbara Walters Discovers a Champion in Joel
I can admit to buying into the hype surrounding Barbara Walter's The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2006, which aired last night on ABC. Specifically, I wanted to see what Babs could get out of Lakewood Church's Joel Osteen, and see what fellow list member Jay-Z would say about his girl Beyonce. Thanks to the miracle of TiVo, I was able to watch Howard Stern's appearance on Letterman and then drool over Jessica Biel on Jimmy Kimmel before checking out Ms. Wawa's annual special, which supposedly makes for great television.
"He is rich, famous, handsome, and adored by millions of fans on television each week," Walters began. "No not Patrick Dempsey — not yet."
Oh Babs, you almost got us. We thought you meant TV's Dr. Derek Shepherd of Grey's Anatomy, who also made the list. You so crazy!
Her piece didn't tell Houstonians anything they wouldn't already know. Osteen is called "the smiling preacher" and is head of the largest church in America. He has an insane following (there was good footage of Osteen at a bookstore, where a crowd of women screamed out his Sunday opening line: "This is my Bible!").
He's also been criticized for preaching "Christianity lite" (which sounds a lot like a diet lemonade, if you ask me) — "no sin, suffering or sacrifice." Indeed, his first line to Walters, "I believe He can take us places we've never dreamed of," is straight from his closing line of each broadcast.
So would Babs get more out of him then mere lines? The piece describes his ascension from TV/marketing guy at Lakewood to its eventual leader (with some nifty B-roll of young pastor Osteen is full mullet...nice). "So why you?" she asks. To which J-O responds...
"It just comes out of me."
Why does he stray away from topics such as gay marriage, abortion or politics? Osteen says if he deviates from his feel-good message, "it can be more of a distraction." How does he feel about being labeled as someone who preaches the "prosperity gospel?" He calls "wealth" having "health, good relationships — money of course is part of it."
Not the dirt I'd hoped for. Oh wait, the piece did get hard-hitting towards the end: Babs asks Osteen to describe himself in three words. "Happy, compassionate, integrity," he says with a shy grin. "Can I add a fourth?" she asks. "Yes," he says politely. Oh man, here it comes...
It didn't get much better when Walters interviewed rapper Jay-Z. Walters acknowledges that you can't talk about Jay without talking Beyonce, his Ms. Thang of three years. "What's the relationship like?" she asks.
Cut to Jay-Z, wearing a gray sweater. (Sweater?)
"She's a great person," he answers smoothly.
Damn, and this is Barbara Walters. Not to worry, fans of Lady B: Walters did ask the all-important Beyonce question:
"Ummmm," starts Jay -- with what looked to be a "Girl, you trippin'!" look of awe -- "she made a song about it, so, I guess so."
Now, that's great television. — Steven Devadanam