Critic's Notebook: No payoff for viewers with Paris
EmptyParis Hilton told Larry King that she has two films lined up for the summer. It is absolutely inconceivable that she will perform in either of them any better than she did while dodging King's mostly superficial questions on Wednesday night.
The story of how Hilton came to give her first post-jail interview to King has been thoroughly reported, from her father's botched effort to sell it to NBC for $1 million to a rejection by ABC's Barbara Walters, who felt double-crossed. What needs to be said -- and what was baldly apparent on Wednesday's "Larry King Live" -- was that Hilton needed this interview far more than any network needed to give it to her.
There's no denying that the humbled celebrity interview has become a talk show staple, whether it's Hugh Grant, Mel Gibson or Jerry Seinfeld doing penance for Michael Richards. They are good for ratings and good for the humiliated star who is, in essence, cleansed by the public show of remorse.
And when it's over, the actor can go back to acting and the tabloids can go find a shocking and shameful new controversy.
In Hilton's case, though, there isn't that much to go back to. Neither singer nor actress, she desperately needed to reinvent herself. Ideally, she needed to appear chastened, slightly victimized by an unfair justice system, brave, vaguely philanthropic, spiritual and determined to jettison her wild ways. Thanks to King's aversion to follow-up after even the most self-serving of Hilton's answers, Hilton accomplished much of what she set out to do.
If only she had been just a little more believable.
King asked if she had to undergo a strip search at the jail. Yes, Hilton replied, and it was "the most humiliating experience of my life." So then those sex tapes all over the Internet fell to second place?
King asked Hilton if she is a party girl. "I'm a social person," she replied. In case you're taking notes, the woman who looked incredibly like Hilton on King's show denied ever taking drugs or drinking to excess.
When Hilton talked about reading the Bible in jail, it was too much, even for King. What was your favorite passage, he asked. "I don't have a favorite," she answered. But you read it every day, he persisted. "In jail, I read it a lot," she said. "Are you going to go to Mass?" he asked. "Yes," she replied. All right, then, she really has found religion.
It was such an obviously scripted performance and so at odds with everything that has ever been reported about Hilton that there is a temptation to believe that no one in their right mind could buy it.
But that's not so. This is a big world, and there will always be people who want to believe that someone young and pretty can be redeemed. They know how the media loves to sensationalize, but what they don't know is how well celebrities have learned to manipulate the media.
This Hilton will be open for business in no time.