Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Financial disciplinarian Gail Vaz-Oxlade doesn't pull any punches in new half-hour of humiliation

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"You're a moron."

As conversational ice-breakers go, you wouldn't expect this one to result in anything resembling an prolonged, productive exchange of ideas. A few traded head-slaps, maybe, or at least a flurry of escalating insults, but probably not a constructive dialogue in which the alleged "moron" is a fully invested party.

Tough-love-dispensing financial guru Gail Vaz-Oxlade thinks otherwise, however, and in her latest cash-crisis-confronting series, Money Moron, she's out to prove that the best first step in helping budgetary boneheads is telling them, in no uncertain terms, that they're idiots.

Money Moron, which gets a sneak-preview airing on Thursday, April 18, at 10 p.m. on Slice before settling into its regular time slot on Friday, April 19 at 8 p.m., finds Vaz-Oxlade returning to familiar ground. In her first series, Til Debt Do Us Part (which was produced by Winnipeg-based Frantic Films), she offered advice and incentives to couples whose financial stresses were threatening their relationships.

More recently, the Jamaican-born writer and TV personality hosted Princess (also produced by Frantic Films), which shifted her focus to young women whose free-spending ways were making the lives of their families miserable.

In Money Moron, which is produced by Toronto's Peacock Alley Entertainment, Vaz-Oxlade comes to the rescue after one half of a couple blows the whistle on his/her partner's fiscal irresponsibility. There's an on-camera ambush in which the host makes the titular declaration -- "You're a money moron" -- and the dispirited whistleblower explains, in anguished detail, how stressful life has become as a result of the partner's accumulated debt and generally oblivious outlook toward financial matters.

In the series opener, Vaz-Oxlade drops in on the fiscal disaster being shared by Deanna and Jamie, an engaged couple of underemployed aspiring actors who are living far beyond their means. Deanna, who dreams of a great big Italian wedding within the year, is afraid her fiancé's moronic money management might be their undoing.

"It's wearing me down," she says of his habit of squandering his minuscule spending cash by buying rounds for his pals. "I'm at the breaking point.... If things don't change, I'm going to walk out the door."

Once confronted by the "moron" label and Deanna's tearful ultimatum, a humbled Jamie agrees to let Vaz-Oxlade show him what he's doing wrong (everything, pretty much) and agrees to complete some challenges that will show him how to turn his financial fortunes around. If he succeeds, Vaz-Oxlade will contribute up to $10,000 toward the couple's debt reduction.

In the process of exposing Jamie's money woes, however, the series host also forces Deanna to reconsider her role in their shared bank-balance bottom-out -- it turns out that she's even further in debt than he is, and her unrealistic matrimonial expectations could prove to be the final crushing blow to their fragile finances.

Money Morons is instructive, but much like Vaz-Oxlade's earlier efforts, there's something a bit uncomfortable about peeking in on the deeply personal problems of these cash-strapped couples. And like before, the appeal of this project depends almost wholly on whether you find Vaz-Oxlade's in-your-face style enlightening or merely annoying.

The betting here is that folks who've been engaged and inspired by her previous shows will be similarly rewarded by this one; those who find her abrupt style unpalatable will dismiss this newcomer as a show only a moron would watch.

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @BradOswald

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 18, 2013 c3

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Updated on Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 9:53 AM CDT: adds missing text, adds fact box, changes headline

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