Lindsay Lohan’s alone; she just doesn’t know it. In the first episode of Lindsay, the eight-week reality show on OWN about Lohan’s life as she headed out of rehab last summer, Lohan’s surrounded by advisors, family, cameras, and boxes of baggage. Yet in the middle of it all, she’s profoundly on her own.
Lohan does briefly meet with the Big O and discuss the importance of the truth before moving to NYC to buy an apartment and reunite with her family. She also travels around in an oversized SUV that’s packed to the gills with unseen filmmakers and hangers on. But O, where’s the helpful advice?
None to be found.
The episode begins with Lohan coming out of Cliffside Malibu (a place she describes as “wonderful”) into the pastel world of moneyed LA. She arrives, ponytail swinging and mahogany tan intact, to meet with Oprah in a room filled with gauze curtains.
“What do you want from this?” asks Oprah. “What is your intention?”
Lohan obviously isn’t going to spout the complicated truth—she wants that big ol’ check and attention, plus something to do and some sense of feeling relevant even to herself. So she gives the uncomplicated Oprah-fied answer. “Just to be…honest and open.” Oprah says she’s going to call Lindsay on it whenever she’s not being truthful and then disappears for the rest of the episode. (I would, too—the exhausted lady’s been carrying that network on her back for years, and Lohan is here to do some heavy lifting, rating-wise. O deserves a few hours with some Triscuits and Candy Crush.)
We then get a summary of Lohan’s career, from freckled child in a blue dress to teen in baby doll garb, from Mean Girls to hard-eyed brunette with the dead eyes and that mahogany finish. There’s self-loathing written in her presentation of herself—and anger, too. Lindsay then goes to a storage unit and stands amidst the wreckage of her past in the form of crates of apparently meaningless crap she’s decided to move from LA to NYC and leave in her mother’s house. It’s a message, but she doesn’t seem to know it.
The episode continues with Lohan leading the life of recovery with money. It all takes place in the armored SUV’s, hotel rooms and narrow hallways filled with people who are there supposedly to help. Her real estate agent, apparently named by Central Casting, is called Cash. Her driver is called “Sir.” And her recovery advisor, Michael Cormier from Cliffside Malibu. Also in the SUV: a friend of Lohan’s who assures her that The Canyons is destined to be a cult classic; the camera man; Amy Rice the director of the show; Lohan’s assistant (taut-shouldered with tension); and us, the viewing public. We get the sense that the poor redhead at the middle of it tells herself she’s surrounded with support, but also, very dimly, knows she might be wrong.
Meanwhile the paparazzi blackly buzz and cluster outside. After getting pics of Lohan, one of them smugly intones, “The public are very greedy—they need this quick.” And the populace lowers its collective head in shame.
On the episode goes: SUV, hotel, hallways. Middle-aged movie guys with grey stubble that want Lohan to be professionally obliging and end up both disappointed and graceless. Lohan, however, still looks nice when she’s scraped off her eyeliner and that fake tan. The dead eyes seem to be waking up, along with entwined feelings of mistrust and entitlement. As she explains in the clip below, Cliffside was “wonderful” but the real world isn’t always the same.
The previews tell us that Oprah is turning up sometime soon, providing the truth as she sees it. It’s a treachery inherent in the medium that O’s truths must be filtered through the lure of potential ratings. Lohan deserves more. At odd, casual moments, she shows she’s capable of self-awareness—like when she notes that when things are going well in her life, something in her head tells her it’s time to sabotage it all. Next week: Lohan confronts her father, himself no stranger to reality/rehab TV and self-sabotage.
Dana Burnell has written for The London Times Sunday Magazine, The Guardian Weekend Magazine and Inside New York, among others. A former Editorial Assistant at Harvard Review, she’s received Mellon Foundation Grant and two Fiction Fellowship Grants from Columbia University. She’s written a novel, Mistaken Nonentity, about a lush obsessed with Barbara Stanwyck who finds herself living a film noir, which is repped by the Martha Millard Agency.
Photo courtesy of Toglenn (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (https://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons © Glenn Francis, www.PacificProDigital.com (resized and cropped)