Oprah Throws Money at the Lindsay Lohan Problem

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What Women Really Think
July 16 2013 1:19 PM

Oprah Throws Money at the Lindsay Lohan Problem

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Lindsay Lohan, through the years. Obviously what this woman needs is a reality show.

Photo by Santa Monica Police Department via Getty Images

Lindsay Lohan has lined up her first post-rehab gig: After she finishes her latest court-mandated stint of drug and alcohol rehabilitation this month, she’ll sit down for an exclusive interview with Oprah Winfrey, then star in an eight-part documentary series for Winfrey’s OWN network. Lohan will reportedly earn a $2 million paycheck—plus the aid of two assistants and a stylist—for the work.

Amanda Hess Amanda Hess

Amanda Hess is a Slate staff writer. 

“It’s fantastic,” Lohan’s mother, Dina, said about the deal. “If there’s any mentor you could choose, there’s nobody better than Oprah. This is a great opportunity for Lindsay. We are all very excited about it.”

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The deal looks less good for Oprah. This is the “You get a car! You get a car! Everybody gets a car!” of celebrity interventions. Oprah has been throwing money at problems for decades, from the time she pledged $10 million to house displaced families in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to the time she awarded a lifelong housekeeper with a year of free maid service (and a tiara!). Oprah’s giveaways drum up publicity for her media properties while cementing her reputation as a selfless humanitarian. But cash flow is the least of Lohan’s problems. Wealth fueled Lohan’s propensity for crashing fancy cars under the influence of expensive drugs; it’s not going to help her kick the habit.

The OWN series will reportedly follow Lohan “as she works to rebuild her career and stay healthy.” If Lohan manages to follow that script, it will be the performance of a lifetime. When she exits rehab to film the show, she’ll do so against the advice of her facility’s counselors, who have urged her to commit to the program past her required 90-day stay.

Every time Oprah awards new cars to her studio audience or whisks her viewers away to a Disney park, she's only required to keep her recipients smiling for the length of the episode. She films a couple of joyrides then moves on to her next project while her gift recipients deal with the consequences of her generosity: In the case of the car giveaway, each audience member walked off set and into a $7,000 tax bill over the "gift."

The eight-episode Lohan series may bring Oprah big ratings, but it also carries a reputational risk: This time, it will be more difficult to hide the fallout of her deep-pocketed enabling. Luckily for Oprah, that might actually make the show worth watching. And if Lohan fails to shape up under Oprah's tutelage, she can always schedule another live confrontation a la James Frey to shame Lohan for wasting her generous opportunity.

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