At first, the shows received a record number of viewers for the network, but ratings have since dropped off.
“The Have and Have Nots” is a soap opera-like show about the tensions between rich and poor, black and white.
“Love Thy Neighbor” features an African American matriarch who runs her own diner and attempts to help her unemployed daughter and her grandson.
To personal finance columnist Michelle Singletary of the Washington Post, the shows offer life lessons about finance and how to handle money.
“I see all kind of money issues going on here,” says Singletary who wrote a column about the shows. “I see lessons.”
- Michelle Singletary: Is art imitating life with “The Haves and the Have Nots” TV show?
- Michelle Singletary, syndicated personal finance columnist at the Washington Post. She tweets @SingletaryM.
ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:
It's HERE AND NOW.
Tyler Perry, the prolific African-American actor and director, has two new shows on the Oprah Winfrey network. Both programs, "Love Thy Neighbor" and "The Haves and the Have Nots," initially attracted a record number of viewers for the network and both attracted the attention of Washington Post financial columnist Michelle Singletary. A financial column for TV shows? Let's find out why as we welcome Michelle back to HERE AND NOW. So what are you seeing in these show that put them in your column?
MICHELLE SINGLETARY: Well, yeah. As I was watching them, all I saw money, money, money.
YOUNG: Or lack of it. Yeah.
SINGLETARY: Or the lack of it. There was lots of discussion about the haves and have-nots, the rich. And, you know, as I watched it, I though, you know, these are a lot of lessons for the people that I write for and I deal with on a regular basis on, you know, we watching what we are actually seeing in our communities. And so that's why I wanted to write the column, to say, you know, money is the central character in the two shows.
YOUNG: Well, let's start with "The Haves and the Have Nots." It focuses on a rich, white Southern family and their black maid and her family. It's got sex and deceit and blackmail between rich and poor, black and white. The tagline for "The Haves and the Have Nots" is: The rich gets richer and the poor get even. And you have some stats about the income gap.
SINGLETARY: He does have it right. The haves are definitely getting more and the have-nots are getting less. You know, the average net worth of households in the upper 7 percent of the wealth distribution chain increased - increased now 28 percent during the first two years of the nation's economic recovery. On the other hand, households in the lower 93 percentile saw a 4 percent drop in their wealth.
YOUNG: Let's see how that's demonstrated in one of the scenes. Candace Young is the estranged daughter of the black maid. She seems to be willing to do anything to get money and leave her past behind. And here, she visits her mother, Hanna, who works for this wealthy white Cryer family. Candace goes into the owner's bedroom and starts looking through their things very longingly.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SERIES, "THE HAVES AND THE HAVE NOTS")
TIKA SUMPTER: (as Candace Young) She has closet tags on them. This is so unfair. I want to live like this.
CRYSTAL FOX: (as Hanna Young ) Get the (Unintelligible) off your hand. You'll never have house like this.
SUMPTER: (as Candace Young) I didn't say I want a house like this. I want this house.
FOX: (as Hanna Young ) Let me tell you something, little girl. Whatever you are planning is going to backfire in your face. You keep on playing in the deep end and you're going to drown. And I'm going to tell you one more time to get your butt out of this woman's bedroom before I drag you out. You hear?
SUMPTER: (as Candace Young) Yes, I heard.
FOX: (as Hanna Young ) And whipping your ass will be worth it.
YOUNG: Michelle Singletary, that is a serious scene.
SINGLETARY: It's a very serious scene. And here's the thing. You know, she has a lot of envy about what other folks have and we see a lot of that playing out, black or white. People see others with so much, and they want that, and they do it at all costs, like going into debt and living beyond their means just so that they can have what they think is really wealth. But it's really not. It's just stuff.
YOUNG: Meanwhile, Candice is working as an escort to pay for law school and take care of her baby. Her brother, he wants to hit the lottery. And you write about the mother's response. He talks about the house?
SINGLETARY: That's right. Well, you know, what drives Candace is, she wants so much, so that drives a lot of her bad decisions. And the mother, in an effort to protect her assets from creditors, puts her house in her son's name. Well, then he then refinances the house and puts the house in jeopardy.
And I always tell parents don't do that. I mean, you should never put your house to somebody's name because then this is what happened. See, he mortgaged her house and they almost lost it as this - as all this stuff plays out in the show. And you see so many - I see at least so many bad decisions being made on everybody's part.
YOUNG: So you don't see, as some of the critics do, Tyler Perry making fun of these people?
SINGLETARY: You know, I actually don't, and I'm African-American. And because I'm a financial anthropologist, when I watched the show, I think, oh, I could play scene for audiences and I can point out what they're doing and why they're doing and why this is wrong because there are lot of Candices out there. They might not be, you know, seducing rich man or working as prostitutes but they are so angry that they grew up poor that they are making a lot of bad decisions.
YOUNG: Well, Tyler Perry himself grew up poor in New Orleans. He says he's been both a have and a have-not. And he pokes fun at both the haves and have-nots. There's the new-money black family, the Harringtons.
David Harrington is a judge. His best friend is wealthy and white Jim Cryer, who employs the black maid. Jim Cryer is also a judge. And in this scene, David tells Jim that Jim should run for governor.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SERIES, "THE HAVES AND THE HAVE NOTS")
PETER PARROS: (as Judge David Harrington) I had lunch with the governor yesterday, you know, it's his last term.
JOHN SCHNEIDER: (as Judge Jim Cryer) So they asked you to run?
PARROS: (as Judge David Harrington) No, no. He said it's too soon. He said the state's not ready for an African-American governor.
SCHNEIDER: (as Judge Jim Cryer) So who do they want to run?
PARROS: (as Judge David Harrington) They want you to run. You really should consider this. We could take...
SCHNEIDER: (as Judge Jim Cryer) We have a problem.
PARROS: (as Judge David Harrington) No, we don't.
SCHNEIDER: (as Judge Jim Cryer) Yes, we do.
PARROS: (as Judge David Harrington) What are you talking about?
SCHNEIDER: (as Judge Jim Cryer) Candace. I called her, she came over, we had sex, we said goodbye, then I come to my house, my daughter introduces me to her new friend from school. And her new friend from school is Candace, the escort. And now, she's trying...
PARROS: (as Judge David Harrington) She's trying to, what?
SCHNEIDER: (as Judge Jim Cryer) Blackmail me.
PARROS: (as Judge David Harrington) I say pay her.
SCHNEIDER: (as Judge Jim Cryer) Oh, I hate being in this position.
YOUNG: Well, he obviously still doesn't even know that Candace is also the daughter of his maid.
SINGLETARY: Right. Yeah. It's a fascinating tale because, you know, he is this black judge who's willing to put his career on this guy who clearly has some major issues. And he is trying to climb up the economic ladder, or the social-political ladder. I mean, so I see all kinds of money issues going on here.
YOUNG: Well, let's look at the second show again on the Oprah Network from Tyler Perry. It's "Love Thy Neighbor." It features an African-American matriarch in and out of her home, her unemployed daughter and her daughter's mama's boy grandson. It stars Patrice Lovely as the mama, Hattie, who owns a diner. In the scene, she talks to her daughter. She comes from one job interview and goes to another.
(SOUNDBITE TV SERIES, "LOVE THY NEIGHBOR")
PATRICE LOVELY: (as Hattie Mae Love) Hey, baby. What happened?
KENDRA JOHNSON: (as Linda Mae Love) I didn't get that one, but I have another one in a couple hours.
LOVELY: (as Hattie Mae Love) Oh, OK. No. Come on, baby, get it in gear.
JOHNSON: (as Linda Mae Love) I have time.
LOVELY: (as Hattie Mae Love) Oh, no, baby. You have to show up early. Employers, they like that.
JOHNSON: (as Linda Mae Love) Mama, if I leave now, I'll be an hour early.
LOVELY: (as Hattie Mae Love) The only way to ensure that you're not late is to go early.
JOHNSON: (as Linda Mae Love) I don't like you pressuring me like this to perform.
LOVELY: (as Hattie Mae Love) Uh, baby, my men used to it. You need to learn to get used to it too.
YOUNG: So, you know, Michelle, if you had to do - if you took away the last track and had, you know, strings there, it would be a tough scene about unemployment?
SINGLETARY: That's right. I don't particularly like the way the main character handles the daughter and the son-in-law in this because I think she can be more helpful. I mean, push people out too soon, young folks who need time to build up their financial strength. They end up coming back because they are not ready. It is so funny because my grandmother used to say, if you're on time, you're late.
YOUNG: Well, one of the things going on with these two shows: There was a huge spike when they first came on. But the L.A. Times says, there's been this huge backlash now, a huge debate in social media within the African-American community, particularly about Tyler Perry's portrayal of women. A Rutgers professor says he's a cultural batterer. So now there's been a huge tune-out.
Do you think it's just because people are not liking the depiction of women, especially on Oprah's network? Or do you think there's something else at work here that who wants to see something that is too close to home?
SINGLETARY: I actually think it's probably the latter and maybe they just don't like the shows. Honestly, I think there's way too much pressure on Tyler Perry to represent the black race. I mean, listen, there are lot of bad white shows on TV. There are lot of bad images of white people as well. But as I watched it, I see lessons. Look at it from the perspective as I'm looking at it. What life lessons did it - can you see about money, and if that interest you, then watch the show. It's not - there's lots of other options.
YOUNG: Michelle Singletary, financial columnist for The Washington Post. Thanks so much.
SINGLETARY: You're so welcome.
YOUNG: Of course, one of those other options, Jeremy, you can listen to the radio.
JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:
YOUNG: From NPR and WBUR Boston. I'm Robin Young.
HOBSON: I'm Jeremy Hobson. This is HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.