Ladies, break out the Kleenex. Come 5:01pm eastern standard time on Wednesday, May 25th, the broadcast of the final episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show will come to a tearful end, and Americans must scramble ‘round the dial to find a way to fill this now-void slot on their DVRs.
Whether you’re a fan or not, the Ompact (yes, that’s an “Oprah” + “impact”) of The Oprah Winfrey Show is undeniable. The series finale marks an amazing 25 years on-air – 4,561 episodes – a truly momentous feat that won’t be replicated anytime soon. But in case you’re interested in trying (and believe your first name would be appealing in noun, verb, and adjective forms – think “Oprah,” “Oprah’ed” and “Oprahfying”), let’s take a little stroll down memory lane, and see what makes for a most memorable talk show (I think I just had an ah-ha moment):
1) Make your guests feel comfortable. Tom Cruise jumped on her couch. That’s really all I need to say about this one. Had Oprah been any less gracious and welcoming as a host, Mr. Katie Holmes might have settled for, you know, simply declaring his love from a seated position. That, or this was during the time when his sister was his publicist and things went a little “Joaquin Phoenix.” Either way, it’s damn good TV.
2) Give free stuff away. You know, no one remembers that this whole thing started in a 1989 episode when Oprah left complimentary copies of USA Today under her audience’s seats and shouted “You get a newspaper! And you get a newspaper!” (Wait…sorry, my sources are telling me this actually didn’t happen…) Rule of thumb: free stuff = happy audiences. Rule of bigger thumb: the more expensive the free stuff = VERY happy audiences AND huge publicity. The annual “Oprah’s Favorite Things” installment is routinely one of her highest rated episodes. “You get a Panini press! And you get a Panini press!”
3) Go tears, or go home. Did you know that staffers for The Oprah Winfrey Show leave a box of tissues between every seat in the audience? That’s because rarely an episode goes by where there aren’t tears. Like when Dr. Oz told us that our stubborn belly fat would never go away…
4) Stir up some scandal! Okay, so did the Queen of Daytime feel a bit duped when she discovered that James Frey’s “memoir” A Million Little Pieces should have been shelved under “Fiction”? Sure! But what did Oprah do? She turned a case of egg-on-her-face into an unrelenting attack on the author, killing his credibility and boosting her reporter-ly aggression. Way to turn that frown upside down.
So whether you love ‘er, or love to hate ‘er, you can’t deny that the big O has made an indelible mark on television. And for that we say, “Thanks, Oprah.” Stedman, she’s all yours now!