Reality TV Wants to Heal You

The current crop of reality TV is less about makeovers and competitions, and more about therapy

Evans Ward / VHI

VHI reality show Celebrity Rehab

When Oprah Winfrey announced that she was getting into the reality-TV business, it seemed to make as much sense as declaring that her book club would henceforth be devoted to discussing first-person-shooter video games. From her talk show to TV movies like Tuesdays with Morrie, Oprah is the queen of middlebrow televisual uplift. Whereas reality TV is better known for--what's the opposite of uplift? Downpush?

As usual, we should not have doubted her. Oprah's Big Give (the season finale airs April 20) became a decent midseason hit for ABC--decent in both scale and philosophy. The competition, in which contestants race to...

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