Oprah’s cable network, OWN, has pulled the plug on its upcoming docu-series about Jay Williams, better known as the man who fathered 34 children. Williams’ peculiar problem was the subject of a couple of controversial, yet highly rated episodes on Iyanla: Fix My Life.
Williams’ spin-off was announced in March and scheduled to air in September. The series was to follow Williams as he tried to repair his relationships, care for his children and maybe avoid having more children. While OWN hasn’t stated why production on the series ceased, it’s not because of the high level of scrutiny.
Jay Williams’ story is David Duke’s dream come true; a Black man who fathers children to an extreme degree with a harem of baby mama’s. However, the genesis of this aborted show isn’t just rooted in stereotypes. Too many reality TV shows feature and overindulge in Black stereotypes. When materialistic housewives, over sexualized personas and broken families are paraded as reality, racial stereotypes will always be an issue. The demise of Jay Williams’ series is a good thing, but the fact that it was even in production points toward a cold reality: more than ever before, television is a ratings game.
In the current age of too many channels, there’s a fight for eyeballs. Reality TV shows are cheap to make, can catch on fast and move the social media needle. It’s this reality that allows the idea for this show to exist, and makes it inevitable for another idea akin to this show to become a reality.
Iyanla Vanzant’s multi-part “mega fix” was just fancy talk for garnering as many eyeballs as possible over multiple episodes. Though there are some who have not seen the show, many know or have heard about Williams by proxy. His episodes were very successful and like any successful supporting character on a hit series, he was given a spin-off. This is standard show business procedure. It does no good for a spiritual guru to “fix” a problem that could have been solved with a rigorous sex ed course.
This doesn’t excuse the idea; it’s a deplorable, disgusting and degenerative idea for a show. However, many reality shows already come from the same yolk. OWN is coming off its strongest quarter in its young history, but outside of Tyler Perry’s shows, everything else is a reality TV show. Jay Williams abandoned docu-series did not open Pandora’s Box; it just shows the pit is truly bottomless.