Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Oprah Show: Are You Watching the Countdown to the End?

In recent years, I've been much more of an "Ellen" than "Oprah" person, when I record or view daytime television at all. But no matter what talk show team you belong to, it's impossible to ignore the big "O". Even Ellen Degeneres herself has an Oprah tribute on her web domain homepage. Oprah is a television force of nature, and the month long countdown to the end of her 25 year old series has become a genuine TV event. Every celebrity in the whole wide world wanted to be on her final, final show which was taped this past Tuesday in Chicago with an audience of over 15,000 adoring fans. It will feature such luminaries as Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Maria Shriver, Tyler Perry, Michael Jordan, Madonna and Tom Hanks. Writer Maya Angelou even wrote a poem for Oprah. The final program, marking the end of a TV era, will air on May 25th, next get those DVR machines ready folks. I have a huge "gotta be there" desire for this event, having regrettably missed the final episode of Johnny Carson's Tonight Show many years ago. Everybody wants to be a part of O's farewell tour. David Letterman even fake cried that he wasn't invited on his own talk show last night.

I was just starting my career in television 25 years ago when the Oprah show first aired, so this series has a nostalgic glow for me personally. Most people have favorite Oprah show moments that they can point to, but I like Oprah best for the roads she paved for women who want (and wanted) to work in the television business. The empire she built (television, movies, print, website....and now cable network: OWN), made it possible for women everywhere to believe that they too could be "the boss". I don't have a favorite TV Oprah moment but I do have a treasured Oprah story. I love what she did to the publishing business. Oprah's endorsement of books, both current and classic literature, have had a solid gold effect on book sales and reading (including e-books). How cool that one of the biggest TV personalities of the past two decades is responsible for getting more people to read.

Not everybody loves Oprah. She has a hand full of haters (mostly men...boooo!) and maybe the assorted Tea Partier because of all the Obama endorsements. But hey...Tina Fey loves her and even featured her in an adorable guest shot on 30 Rock.

Final episodes of any long time series are "must see" events, as the promo below wonderfully illustrates. It just might make you cry, and that's where Oprah has always been the master. She has given us Emotional Television at its very best.


Lisa said...

Great tribute to Oprah! I've never been a watcher -- probably too late now to catch up! -- but have admired the way she straddled the taste and intellect continuum of her viewers and managed overall probably to do much more good than harm...I think. As another gal who started in TV the same time you and Oprah did, I definitely remember the way she conquered the syndication talk show world and how lucky the stations were who locked her in early. I think she luckily had more drive than anything else, which will get you further in TV than being just smart. The reading iniative is good, too, as you say. Anything that keeps reading alive has got to help the future!

Dean Treadway said...

I admire Oprah for all the reasons you deliniated, Jane. I rarely catch her show, but when I do, I'm sometimes riveted. I'll probably be watching the final episode.

Amy said...

Kudos, Jane, for a very fitting tribute to Oprah! As a long-time Oprah watcher and reader of O, her magazine, I have admired and been inspired by her as a "force of nature" on and off screen. Let's not also forget her work as a philanthropist. I don't know of anyone in this world who can wear all those hats. I'll even miss those wonderful style make-over shows and her "best things" giveaway shows. Too late to get tickets now but I'll certainly be watching the final episode!

Jane said...

I think the appeal of Oprah is that no matter how important or rich she got (not too many other female billionaire media moguls walking around), she always gave the impression that she was a "regular" person...someone "just like us". That ability to connect with a mass audience, but at the same time seem like a person who you could invite to your back yard BBQ and she would actually show up...has been her genius and continued ticket to success. That, and an amazing knack for catchy acronyms...Oprah, Harpo, OWN. I will follow her new TV network with interest if Comcast ever let's me afford that tier without taking out a loan.