“Iyanla: Fix My Life” 9 p.m. Saturdays, OWN
By Jon Caramanica
Evelyn Lozada begins her appearance on “Iyanla: Fix My Life” perfectly primped — hair, makeup, outfit, all pristine. It was filmed in July, 11 days after she married football star Chad Johnson. Their not-always-romantic courtship had been documented in “Basketball Wives,” the VH1 reality battle royale of which she’s the volatile star. (She was previously engaged to basketball player Antoine Walker.)
In the way that many reality-TV stars seek help by going on other reality TV programs, Lozada sought out Iyanla Vanzant to discuss controlling her rage. Vanzant — the engine of “Iyanla: Fix My Life” — is a self-help guide and author with a mystical air but with a deeply grounded approach. She speaks in a soothing, encouraging voice, makes phenomenal eye contact and has an evident distaste for polish.
“Iyanla: Fix My Life” is “Intervention” and daytime talk distilled to core principles. Much of the show is given over to long, hard conversations, shot up close, a tactic of discomfort.
In the case of Lozada, who was the subject of the show’s premiere on OWN, Oprah Winfrey’s network , Vanzant’s success can be measured by the stains — makeup and tears — Lozada leaves on her collar.
“I’m gonna hold you,” she tells Lozada. “I’m not gonna let you go, I’m not gonna compromise your dignity, and whatever you say to me I promise you I’m not gonna use it against you.”
Lozada’s faucet is quick and gushing.
“Just let her weep,” Vanzant intones, over and over, to no one in particular.
Her truth-teller presentation can go overboard at times: In a later episode, she literally ties family members together with string to illustrate how bonds work, then uses scissors to emphasize a point about abandonment.
But mostly, it’s bracing watching her poke holes in the delusions of her charges. In each episode, the stories people tell about themselves are subjected to pressure and interrogation until they collapse, defeated.
Most of Vanzant’s guests aren’t stars, but leading with Lozada allows Winfrey’s network to attract some of the reflected interest.
One of Vanzant’s best-known interventions was with Winfrey herself. Vanzant was a regular guest on Winfrey’s show in the 1990s, but the two had a falling out. Their tearful reconciliation came on one of Winfrey’s final shows last year, in one of the rare interactions in which you could sense Winfrey’s discomfort. The gravitational center that usually holds on her stage was upended.
Vanzant is able to create these disruptions because she largely erases the force fields people keep around themselves merely by acknowledging their existence and thereby robbing them of effectiveness. Sometimes she just reaches through the force field and grabs on tight. In a later episode, she has to show a mother how to hug her son, whom she’s abandoned. It’s awful to watch and also full of hope.