There will be no resting in peace for Whitney Houston. Not yet anyway.
The week began with U.S. President Barack Obama making public his condolences, wisely through a White House spokesperson, and music-industry royalty pronouncing eulogies at Sunday night's Grammy Awards.
And then the floodgates opened.
There is, of course, some journalistic validity to CNN's Piers Morgan interviewing the singer Chaka Khan, who, like Houston, has battled substance abuse. And one might gain perspective from Canadian music producer David Foster, who produced the song I Will Always Love You, Houston's biggest hit. But coverage of the diva's demise on the tabloid-TV outlets has become frantic, verging on the bizarre.
In recent days the feeding frenzy has seen Entertainment Tonight resurrecting 1984 footage of a 20-year-old Houston singing a duet with Jermaine Jackson. Over on Access Hollywood, the seventies stoner Tommy Chong offered the rather predictable opinion that Houston would still be alive today, “had she stuck to pot.”
Even more unsettling was HLN host Nancy Grace's Tuesday appearance on sister network CNN, where she speculated wildly upon the fact that Houston's body was found submerged in a hotel bathtub. “Who let her slip, or pushed her, underneath that water?” suggested Grace in her inimitable lurid manner.
The healing begins tonight, presumably, with Remembering Whitney: The Oprah Interview (OWN Canada, 9 p.m.). Billed as a “special television event,” the two-hour program will feature Winfrey offering her personal memories of Houston and sharing “the magic of a musical icon gone too soon.”
But mostly the special is a rebroadcast of Winfrey's interview with Houston, which took place in September, 2009, for The Oprah Winfrey Show's 24th season premiere. Originally airing over two days, the interview was the high point in Houston's attempted return to the music business following years spent in an abusive marriage and excessive drug use.
In light of Houston's death, it's a fascinating, if eerie, interview.
Unlike her 2002 sit-down with Diane Sawyer – when Houston famously denied her addiction by saying “crack is whack”– the singer completely opens up her life to Winfrey without hesitation.
Viewed today, the program exposes Houston as a troubled soul, but a survivor. She does not flinch in revealing the darkest days of her marriage to singer Bobby Brown or the sordid details of her drug use. Houston appears truly ashamed to admit she only stopped doing cocaine after her mother staged an intervention, with police officers in tow.
It's a painfully revealing snapshot of a famous person fallen upon hard times. The timing of the program's rebroadcast could not be more fortuitous for Winfrey, who needs to effect her own damage control.
Winfrey, you may have heard, is in hot water of late for taking to Twitter last Sunday and imploring viewers – especially any with “a Nielsen box” – to watch the program Oprah's Master Class on the OWN network.
Considering that Winfrey has nearly nine million followers on Twitter, someone was bound to notice.
People did notice. The Nielsen Media Research company has definite rules about people promoting TV shows via social media. Winfrey promptly deleted the tweet, at Nielsen's request, and quickly issued an apology stating she “intended no harm.”
But Winfrey's attempt to draw viewers to her foundering network was a rare misstep by the powerful talk diva. Although Houston's participation in tonight's interview was her attempt to re-enter the music business, it will turn out to be more of a comeback for Oprah. Strange days indeed.
Doc Zone: Who's Sorry Now? (CBC, 9 p.m.) puts a sharp focus on the billion-dollar business known as the Big Apology. You know the routine: A famous person or corporation is caught in some distasteful misdeed. Enter the spin doctors to salvage the brand, which always begins with a plaintive mea culpa. The program interviews several professional “reputation managers” and includes examples of damage control done right (Bill Clinton, BP) and terribly wrong (John Edwards, Tiger Woods).
All times Eastern. Check local listings.
John Doyle returns Monday.