The world is (ahem) a-Twitter with news that Lance Armstrong is headed to the Oprah Winfrey show (she does still have a surname, right?) next week, news that comes too closely on the heels of his rumored plans to confess to doping use for it to be a coincidence. Yep... Lance is going to tell Oprah his deepest secrets.
But is this really a good idea? Let's break it down.
- First of all, will he confess? I don't think he can avoid it on daytime TV. Face it, people are busy in the daytime. The sun might be out, or the phone is ringing, or the stores are open, or the gym, whatever. If you want people to turn on the TV in those hours, you have to bring either the crazy or the drama. Lance can't afford to go on Oprah and pull the Mark McGwire "I'm not here to talk about the past" routine. Oprah's security detail will give him the Hell's Angels jackboot stomping of a lifetime.
- So, if it's got to be daytime TV, then it's crazy or drama. Oprah is the drama route. Pros: For Lance's purposes, it's the path of least resistance. Oprah likes people who are as famous as her, and she's pretty level-headed. Plus the audience will be packed with skinny guys hoping she'll spontaneously announce that everyone in attendance gets a free bike. WillJ is making his travel plans as we speak. Cons: In the end, the story is always Oprah. Sorry Lance.
- Another problem with Oprah is that if Lance's goal is to quell criticism, a softball interview might not get it done. My suggestion would the The View. This is an American talk show which blends Oprah-style gossipy chatter with a roundtable format, featuring actual journalist Barbara Walters, comedian/actresses Whoopi Goldberg, Sherri Shephard and Joy Behar, and token conservative punching bag Elisabeth Hasselbeck. [I'm not going political here, equating conservatives with punching bags; just observing that when politics comes up on this show, it's everyone against Elisabeth, to the point where that seems to be her anointed role.] Pros: Is this the hottest seat in television? Not exactly, but it's not the plush sofa that Oprah is either. The hosts can bring the heat from all sides, at least until Elisabeth goes rogue on them again. Cons: Will anyone discuss cycling? Has anyone heard of Hein Verbrugge? Does comedienne Joy Behar know what a centrifuge is?
- Other suggestions would be cable news. There are no shortages of quasi-journalistic bobbleheads* dying to book a guy like Lance. [* NTTAWWT!] Some of them might even make him look good, simply by putting him in a room where he's actually the least crazy person. I can't really say what all the options are, but typically there are the left-right shows, where the hosts generally just scream at each other over some poor guest. There are also the Big Personality shows where you have one certifiably crazy host (can Lance get on Mad Money?). Really, any format you can think of, there's a crazy-person talk show. Pros: Lance's job is to just stay out of the way and let other people disgrace themselves. That's a big win. Cons: He might not get a chance to confess.
- There are the confrontation shows: picture Lance talking calmly with the host who suddenly interrupts and says "let's bring out a surprise guest -- Travis Tygart!" The audience shouts "WOOOOOOOOOO!!!!" and either the two engage directly or the host uses the nutjobs in the audience to light the fuse. Pros: This would probably get us a full airing of the issue. Cons: Actually, there aren't any.
- Not interested in daytime TV? Well, the nighttime options are a tad limited. Basically, there are sitcoms and reality TV. Most of the reality shows are too caught up in their format for Lance to make an impact. I do think there's a way for Lance to get on Top Chef, however. He could be the guest judge, and the challenge could be to create a dish using shellfish, Necco brand Nilla Wafers, EPO and fresh pomegranate. The winning chef gets a LeMond indoor trainer, to work off the stress and tasting demands of being a professional chef. Pros: I would watch. Cons: The message might be received as "EPO is delicious," which is not what they're going for. Also, the prize wouldn't work; everyone knows chefs can't afford to be skinny.
- Then there are the dramas. I think my top overall choice for Lance would be an appearance on Downton Abbey. From what I understand, the show is going overseas to America for a while, with stops in Newport, RI and New York. Well, in the 1920s these were cycling hotbeds -- mostly track (don't get me started), but whatever. Well, Lance could play a young-ish track cyclist -- remember, after WW I everyone looked about 15 years older than they actually were. Now, EPO wasn't invented then, so he would have to find sly ways to confess to improper behavior in the pursuit of victory. But where there's a will, there's a way. Pros: There is nothing more devastating than being on the receiving end of a cutting remark from the Dowager Countess, played by Maggie Smith. Once he's taken a few zings from her, everyone will agree he's served his time. Cons: For the Lance character to fit in, he'd have to get romantically involved with someone, presumably Edith, who I have predicted will eventually be revealed as the precursor to the wife character on All in the Family. All the guys treat Edith like crap. So Lance might come out as just as much a villain as ever.