Oprah Winfrey, mother confessor of the nation, is nothing without her supplicants. With a channel to run now, she needs believers more than ever. In Lindsay Lohan, the former teenage star turned tabloid sideshow turned second-chance waster, Winfrey has snared a flashy disciple.
Just 27, Lohan is already years beyond her peak, shorthand for total public collapse.
Winfrey needs someone to save. Lohan needs a lifeline. The result is “Lindsay,” a docu-series about Lohan’s post-rehab life that premiered Sunday on OWN, Winfrey’s channel.
In the premiere, Winfrey talks to Lohan in a voice that’s part protector, part scold, and insists, “I want you to win.” Maybe. Mostly, she wants Lohan to show up. Unreliability is Lohan’s strongest personality trait, and she is true to character on this show, which was filmed last summer after she completed a 90-day rehab treatment and moved from Los Angeles to New York. (There will be eight episodes this season.)
Unlike Paul Schrader, the film director who screamed, cajoled and stripped nude to get what he needed from Lohan for his 2013 feature, “The Canyons” – Lohan’s last misfire – Winfrey has money and power. Whether that makes her any less of an enabler is up for debate.
In the largely snoozy premiere, Lohan goes through a hangar-size storage unit full of her clothes and ephemera, moves into a New York hotel, where she disentangles pieces of jewelry, looks for an apartment and hides from paparazzi, using them as a rationalization to skip an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. (Lohan reportedly received $2 million for her participation in the series, though a network spokesman declined to confirm that figure.)
In the premiere, Lohan is surrounded primarily by paid hangers-on, including an assistant and a sobriety coach (who sits front row with her at a fashion show, taking pictures). An occasional friend appears of her own volition (including one who gamely suggests that “The Canyons” will be a cult favorite).
When people around her break promises, Lohan is sent into a tailspin. Or, seen from another angle, Lohan needs those around her to be unreliable, so that she can be, too.
This is Lohan at her most natural, collapsing at the slightest provocation. But it is a reminder of why she is essentially unhirable in Hollywood. And if the interactions with her real estate agent are to be believed, she is also possibly unfit to rent an apartment. All she has is her name, and it is a burden.
Why the still-flailing Lohan needs Winfrey is clear: money, exposure, stability, inspiration. Winfrey’s interests are far more predatory.
“Lindsay” raises the question of whether Lohan is even capable of meaningful consent. A victim of a long series of terrible choices, she has few options left. “Lindsay” is her potential ticket to freedom, but it is also a prison.