In case you were wondering, there is no such thing as a “safe” interview anymore. If you are in the public eye and have suffered a public embarrassment, the road to rehabilitating your image by using an innocuous appearance, is getting harder and harder to find. For years Larry King was the go-to guy, assuming Barbara Walters wasn’t interested in mothering you, if you were trying to make a comeback. But somehow King either became embarrassed that his “legacy” was going to include a reputation as a kiss-up interviewer, or someone at CNN insisted that he stop worrying about being everyone’s “friend” and pay more attention to asking the questions that his audience was clamoring to hear. (Thank you Anna Nicole Smith!)
Now even an appearance on Regis and Kelly no longer guarantees you the softball questions. However, you can at least rely on them to not be obnoxious about it. Tatum O’Neal got that wake up call when she couldn’t hide from her recent past on the show.
Regis began the interview by saying she’d had a couple of rough months (understatement of the year) and asking how she was doing. O’Neal said “I’m well, thank you. Thank you for asking.” Kelly offered appreciation of how honest and human she was and O’Neal, often looking at the floor, and at times uncomfortably seeking approval from the audience, said that it’s a situation “no one should ever BE in.” (Or at least get CAUGHT in.) Now, notice that I’m not being specific about what that situation was…well neither was Regis or Kelly. No direct mention of the drug-related charges and arrest that took place near her New York home a few months ago. It appeared that Regis and Kelly have no issues with their legacy as champions of the “softball” interview league, even though they knew their gossipy audience would have loved to hear more. While O’Neal looked subdued in a black, one-shoulder-reveling short dress, she still displayed a sense of humor and spunk. She offered that her life had gotten better and better since writing her revealing biography, but that “sometimes I’m meant to go left and I go right. I don’t know why that is.”
They went on to talk about her move to N.Y. for her kids education and wellbeing, quite the opposite of the movie set upbringing she went through. She even admitted that she didn’t spend much time in high school, but is street smart instead of school smart.
The discussion then turned to her real reason for her appearance a new Lifetime movie “FabFive – The Texas Cheerleading Scandal,” based on a true story, in which she plays the principle of the school involved in the incident. O’Neal said she had to go outside the box for this character, because she lets her daughter get away with murder. She kept repeating “She’s so naughty!” It’s funny to see someone who has been through as much as O’Neal has use the word “naughty.” A bit of a dichotomy, and a subtle admission that she would most likely not be nominated for Mother of the Year.
O’Neal was an interesting guest because you never knew quite what to expect or what was going on just below the surface. There’s an edge, an intrigue to her. It’s not about entertainment, it’s about the unknown that could have come out of the situation. However, you can’t loose sight of the fact that if Tatum O’Neal is the booking and she has just gone through a public trauma, your audience expectation is something more than the normal Regis and Kelly pabulum. (You can be sure the promo department was keen on taking advantage of the potential of such an appearance.) Even the softball champs can’t claim victory here.