- The Oprah Winfrey Show
The Oprah Winfrey Show Genre Talk show Created by Oprah Winfrey Presented by Oprah Winfrey Country of origin United States Language(s) English No. of seasons 25 No. of episodes 4,561 Production Location(s) Harpo Studios
Camera setup Multiple Running time 45 minutes Production company(s) Harpo Productions Distributor CBS Television Distribution Broadcast Original channel Syndicated Picture format 480i SDTV
720p HDTV (ABC and Fox affiliates)
1080i HDTV (CBS and NBC affiliates)
Audio format MTS stereo Original run September 8, 1986– May 25, 2011 External links Website
The Oprah Winfrey Show is an American syndicated talk show hosted and produced by its namesake Oprah Winfrey. It ran nationally for 25 seasons beginning in 1986, before concluding in 2011. It is the highest-rated talk show in American television history.
The show was highly influential, and many of its topics penetrated into American pop-cultural consciousness. While early episodes of the show follow a Phil Donahue-style exploration of sensationalistic social issues, Oprah eventually transformed her series into a more positive, spiritually uplifting experience by featuring book clubs, celebrity interviews, self-improvement segments, and philanthropic forays into world events. The show gained credibility by not trying to profit off the products it endorsed; it had no licensing agreement with retailers when products were promoted, nor did the show make any money from endorsing books for its book club.
As of 2011, it was one of the longest-running daytime television talk shows in the United States and in television history, having run nationally since September 8, 1986 for 25 seasons and 4,561 episodes. The show entered its 25th and final season on September 13, 2010, and its final episode aired on May 25, 2011.
The show had its roots in AM Chicago, a half-hour morning talk show airing on WLS-TV in Chicago, Illinois. Winfrey took over as host on January 2, 1984 and, within a few months, took it from last place to first place in the ratings. On September 8, 1986, it was relaunched under its current title and was picked up nationally. The show began broadcasting in high definition in its 2008–09 season, becoming one of the first nationally syndicated daytime talk shows to do so.
The show was renewed through 2011, but in a 2008 interview with Larry King, Oprah announced that in 2011, she would not renew her contract, thus ending the show. A new prime-time show called Oprah's Next Chapter is planned for OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.
Early in Oprah's 12th season of The Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah confessed she was "exhausted" and considered quitting. While making the movie Beloved (1997), Oprah then admitted that it brought her back to her responsibility as an admired black woman with a great deal of power and influence. She realized that being in such a position within the media industry, she could make a positive difference in people's lives. Oprah was once again inspired to continue to help people take better control of their destinies, hence her current slogan, "Live Your Best Life".
"I made the decision…in the midst of doing Beloved. I was doing some scenes – Beloved is about an ex-slave, and during that process of doing that I connected to really what slavery had meant, and my own personal ancestry and history connected it to a way I have never before from reading all about Black history and, you know, talking to relatives. And I realized that I had no right to quit coming from a history of people who had no voice, who had no power, and that I have been given this – this blessed opportunity to speak to people, to influence them in ways that can make a difference in their lives, and to just use that."
Winfrey interviewed a plethora of political and public figures over the past 20 years. In the earlier seasons of the show, rather than offering a simple publicity platform, a celebrity would often be featured after a period of intense media scrutiny, such as when the model Naomi Campbell appeared after there were claims that she had a substance abuse problem. Oprah often interviewed celebrities on issues that directly involved them in some way, such as cancer or charity work.
Winfrey claims her worst interviewing experience was with Elizabeth Taylor in the fourth season. The actress refused to talk about her marriages and current relationship. Taylor later apologized and returned in a better mood to Winfrey's couch. Winfrey's interview with Tom Cruise, which was broadcast on May 23, 2005, also gained notoriety. Cruise—according to The New York Times—"jumped around the set, hopped onto a couch, fell rapturously to one knee and repeatedly professed his love for his new girlfriend, Katie Holmes." This scene quickly became part of American pop-cultural discourse and was heavily parodied in media as diverse as MADtv, The Simpsons, Saturday Night Live, Family Guy, Hannah Montana, South Park, That's So Raven, All That, Drake and Josh, Scrubs (TV series) and the film Scary Movie 4,.
Non-celebrity guests were generally individuals who had been involved in an extraordinary situation. Examples included an episode in the fourth season which featured Truddi Chase, a woman with supposed Multiple Personality Disorder, who reported being violently and sexually abused beginning at the age of two. After introducing Chase, who was there to promote her book When Rabbit Howls, Oprah unexpectedly broke down in tears while reading the teleprompter, relating her own childhood molestation to that of the guest. Unable to control herself, Winfrey repeatedly asked producers to stop filming. Other non-celebrity appearances included guests who were chosen for being particularly un-fashionable and who were given a fashion makeover by renowned style advisers Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine. In 2009, British couple Gerry and Kate McCann went on the show to aid the search for their missing daughter, Madeline, who went missing in Portugal in 2007.
On the season premiere of 2004, every person in Winfrey's show audience was given a new car (donated by General Motors). Some 302 "ultimate fans" accompanied Winfrey to Australia (donated by Australian tourism bodies). Other giveaway shows included the annual Oprah's favorite things show, where the studio audience received products Winfrey considered good Christmas gifts.
Other famous moments
- The surviving members of the Little Rock Nine confronted some former classmates who heckled them on their first day of high school.
- On December 25, 1986, a frail Liberace made his final public appearance on Oprah; he died six weeks later of cardiac arrest due to congestive heart failure brought on by subacute encephalopathy.
- In 1987, Winfrey traveled to Forsyth County, Georgia, which is 95% white and had gained a reputation as being a hotbed for racism. It turned out that a majority of the county actually supported racial integration.
- The "Diet Dreams Come True" episode airing November 15, 1988, showed Winfrey wearing size 10 Calvin Klein jeans and wheeling out a wagon containing 67 pounds of fat, representing the weight she had lost.
- The highest-rated single episode ever was in 1993 when Michael Jackson made a rare appearance on the show, during which he attempted to dispel many of the rumors surrounding him and told Winfrey he suffered from the skin-pigment disorder known as vitiligo. The episode was watched by 62 million viewers.
- In 1995, Winfrey confessed to previously using drugs as a result of a relationship.
- In 1997, American stand-up comedian, television host and actress Ellen DeGeneres came out publicly as a lesbian in an appearance on the show.
- A. J. McLean of the Backstreet Boys appeared in 2003 with his mother to openly discuss his drug addiction and rehabilitation. Winfrey surprised him with the rest of the band coming out to give him support, making this the first time they appeared together in two years.
- Jacqueline Saburido, a woman who suffered burns on her entire body after a car crash in 1999, appeared on the show in 2003. Winfrey later referred to her as one of her favorite all-time guest because of her shining inner beauty. The mother of Reginald Stephey, the drunk driver who caused the accident, also appeared on the same show and spoke to Saburido about her son's mistake.
- Charla Nash, who was mauled by Sandra Herold's pet chimpanzee Travis on February 16, 2009, spoke about the attack for the first time on November 11, 2009 and revealed her disfigured face to the public for the first time on Oprah's show. Charla always covers her face with a veil.
- While taping the show's 24th season premiere on September 8, 2009, the entire audience of 21,000 people, gathered on Chicago's Magnificent Mile, surprised Winfrey by breaking out into a synchronized dance set to The Black Eyed Peas' performance of "I Gotta Feeling" (with new lyrics congratulating Oprah on her show's longevity). The dance had been choreographed and rehearsed for weeks by a core group of dancers, who taught it to the entire crowd earlier in the day.
Regular segments and campaigns
- Oprah's Book Club
- Originally featured a monthly book highlight, including author interviews. Its popularity caused featured books to shoot to the top of bestseller lists, often increasing sales by as many as a million copies at its peak. It was suspended in 2002 and returned in 2003, featuring more classic works of literature, with reduced selections per season. The original format was reintroduced in September 2005, but Oprah's selection of James Frey's A Million Little Pieces became controversial due to accusations of falsification. January 2006 saw Elie Wiesel's Night selected; Winfrey even traveled to Auschwitz with Wiesel.
- What's The Buzz?
- Winfrey introduced up-and-coming public figures who generated industry buzz but not otherwise widely known. In what several media commentators have labelled The Oprah Effect, people appearing on this segment such as Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx and singer James Blunt benefited from the extra publicity the show garnered. Blunt in particular saw album sales increase dramatically and landed a Top Two spot on the Billboard 200.
- Remember Your Spirit
- Premiering and most popular during the mid-1990s, recurring guest and self-described spiritualist Iyanla Vanzant emphasized the importance of self-affirmation and intrinsic worth.
- Oprah's Favorite Things
- Usually aired during the holiday shopping season or at the beginning of spring. Items personally favored by Winfrey were given away to the audience. Certain episodes of this type featured select groups of people; in 2005's Christmas edition, Hurricane Katrina volunteer workers appeared in the audience. In November 2006, Oprah opted to hand out debit cards of $1,000 and camcorders to members of her studio audience, who were then told to use the money creatively to help others. Winfrey has since called it her favorite giveaway ever.
- Tuesdays With Dr. Oz
- Mehmet Oz, the Ivy-League educated head of cardiac surgery at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in NYC and better known to millions of Winfrey's viewers as "Dr. Oz", regularly appeared on Tuesdays during the 2008–2009 season. In 2009, Dr. Oz debuted The Dr. Oz Show in first-run syndication. The series is co-produced by Harpo Productions and Sony Pictures Television.
- Fridays Live
- A weekly live episode premiered in the show's 23rd season with a panel consisting of Mark Consuelos, Ali Wentworth, Oprah Winfrey, and Gayle King. The panel discussed the week's news and highlighted events in the media and on the show.
- In the 2009-10 season, Winfrey hosted this segment on her own. Fridays Live did not return for the show's 25th season.
- No Phone Zone
- In March 2010, Winfrey began a campaign to stop drivers from talking or texting on their cell phone in their vehicles while driving. This campaign was regularly noted near the beginning or at the end of episodes.
- Wildest Dreams
A show feature called "Wildest Dreams" fulfilled the dreams of people reported to Oprah by the producers — mostly viewers who wrote in to the show — be they dreams of a new house, an encounter with a favorite performer, or a guest role on a popular TV show.
During her 2004 season premiere, Winfrey surprised her entire audience of 276 by giving them each a Pontiac G6 automobile. It was named as one of the greatest television moments in history by TV Guide, and as The Paley Center for Media's most surprising TV moment of all time. The cars, which had a total value of $7 million, were donated by General Motors and each winner was responsible for $7,000 in taxes or else forfeited the gift.
In 2005, Tina Turner guest starred, allowing Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman to fulfill her Wildest Dream of singing backup to Turner. Another installment featured a man named David Caruso who lost 300 pounds. He came on the show in 2003 and told Oprah that one of his wishes was to sit in a Porsche. Minutes later, a Porsche was given to him. Winfrey named this one of her 20 favorite moments on a DVD set.[which?]
A controversial episode, which aired in 2005 (though originally aired to little apparent notice in October 2003), saw guests discussing the sexual act of "rimming", igniting criticism. The FCC received a proliferation of complaints from angry parents whose children watched the show in an early-evening slot in many television markets. However, most FCC correspondents were prodded to write by Howard Stern, a noteworthy target of the agency, as well as Jimmy Kimmel, in an attempt to expose an FCC double standard.
In the late 1990s, on a discussion of mad cow disease, Winfrey stated that the disease fears had "stopped me cold from eating another burger!" Texas cattle ranchers considered that quote tantamount to defamation, and promptly sued her for libel. The show was still producing new episodes at the time of the trial and could not go into reruns, so the production was forced to move to Amarillo, Texas for a period of approximately one month during the proceedings. A gag order meant Winfrey was not allowed to even mention the trial on her show. Winfrey was found not liable. The trial and move to Amarillo led to Winfrey meeting Phil McGraw; Winfrey made McGraw a regular guest on her show shortly thereafter, which eventually led to McGraw getting his own show, produced by Winfrey's Harpo Productions.
In the lead up to Winfrey's tour of Australia, the show was heavily criticized for airing a segment sponsored by the McDonald's Corporation in which it was claimed by Australian TV personality Carrie Bickmore that Australians liked to hang out at "hip McCafés". This depiction of Australian culture was greeted with surprise by many Australians, and anger throughout the Australian coffee industry, which claimed the statements did not accurately reflect the industry, painted the Australian coffee drinker in a bad light, and expected that the industry would be negatively affected by the statements. In the same episode, McDonald's products were handed out to the studio audience.
In 1997, Winfrey said she was planning to retire, but then renewed her contract through 2002. In 2002, she said she would depart in 2006—the show's 20th anniversary year—but in 2004 she extended through 2011 after riding a wave of high ratings and a revamped program in 2003. In an appearance on Good Morning America on September 10, 2009, Winfrey told Diane Sawyer that she would make the decision of retiring or renewing her contract before the end of the year.
Discovery Communications chief executive David Zaslav said in early November 2009 that The Oprah Winfrey Show would depart broadcast syndication in fall 2011. Zaslav told analysts, "The current expectation is that after autumn 2011 her show will go off of...syndication, and she will come to OWN", the cable network that Winfrey's production company is creating in conjunction with Discovery. Harpo Productions denied that Winfrey had made a final decision at that point. However, on November 19, 2009, Harpo announced the show would indeed end in 2011, as noted on-air by Winfrey the following day.
Monday, September 13, 2010 was the season premiere of The Oprah Winfrey Show's final season. Oprah opened the show with guest John Travolta. Oprah announced that the 300 guests in the audience were her most loyal fans of the show and showed that on the website and through emails. Those 300 people were invited there specifically for the premiere show. She said that Travolta was voted the most favorite guest.
The 25th season premiere included flashbacks from the last 25 years, and included various audience members and their experiences watching Oprah. There was also a segment on how they chose some of the 300 people who were in the audience. Don Johnson and Paul Simon also made special guest appearances on the premiere show.
At the end of the show, Oprah announced that she was flying all 300 audience members with her to Australia and that John Travolta would be the pilot. On 11 December 2010 Winfrey arrived in Sydney, Australia to record shows at the Sydney Opera House. Winfrey and her 300 American audience members were officially welcomed at a cocktail party in Sydney's Botanical Gardens overlooking Sydney Harbour. The beach-themed party, hosted by New South Wales Premier Kristina Keneally, featured live music from top recording artist Guy Sebastian and a fireworks display over the water which culminated in the lighting of a red 'O' on the Harbour Bridge.
The episodes in Australia were coordinated between Harpo Studios, Tourism Australia, Tourism New South Wales, the Sydney Opera House, Tourism Victoria, Tourism Queensland, R.M. Williams and Network 10. The federal government of Australia spent $1.5 million on the event while the government of the state of New South Wales spent an additional $1–2 million to promote the region. Tourism minister Martin Ferguson said "I think it's money well spent". Also a further AU$650,000 just by Tourism Victoria alone.
Winfrey is not expected to designate a successor, and because of the nature of television syndication, no single program will replace Oprah across the United States. Nevertheless, a number of other programs have been positioned as potential replacements for the show, which in most areas occupies a prime late-afternoon timeslot:
- Some stations are expected to insert another highly rated talk show, such as The Ellen DeGeneres Show or The Dr. Oz Show, into Oprah's current timeslot. Others may instead try expanding their local newscasts.
- Oprah's home station WLS-TV in Chicago, which originally launched Winfrey's program as a local morning talk show and has continued to air it in the 9:00 a.m. timeslot ever since, will launch a new local morning talk show – called Windy City LIVE – in place of Oprah. The station says it has no intention of converting the new program into another nationally syndicated talk show as occurred with Oprah.
- Warner Bros. Television Distribution will syndicate a new talk show hosted by CNN anchor Anderson Cooper beginning in fall 2011, calling the program comparable to Winfrey's "in terms of range". Both Warner Bros. and CNN are owned by Time Warner.
- A new Rosie O'Donnell-hosted talk show (similar to her 1996-2002 series) was proposed for syndication as well, but O'Donnell has since agreed to have that program broadcast on OWN instead.
- ABC, whose O&O station group is the lead carrier of Oprah, had been considering moving its late-morning talk show The View into the Oprah timeslot, either on the ABC network or repackaged for syndication (through Disney-ABC Domestic Television). However, ABC has reportedly since told affiliates it is no longer pursuing either option.
The final episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show aired in the United States on Wednesday, May 25, 2011. It was preceded by a two-part farewell special recorded at the United Center in Chicago in front of an audience of 13,000. The two-part show featured appearances by Aretha Franklin, Tom Cruise, Stevie Wonder, Beyoncé, Tom Hanks, Maria Shriver, Will Smith, and Madonna. The final episode was a smaller affair, recorded in the usual recording studio but with no guests. Oprah spent most of the finale thanking the show's staff and her fans. She finished the show in tears. The finale was marked by viewing parties across the US, and the episode was also shown in movie theaters. The episode received the show's highest rating in 17 years.
United States viewership
It has been reported that the show averages an estimated 7, 14, and 15-20 million viewers a day in the United States. It has also been reported at 26 million and 42 million a week (5.2 and 8.4 million a day). Viewership for the show has been reported to have dropped over the years, averaging 12.6 million in 1991-2, 9 million in 2004, 9 million in 2005, 7.8 in 2006, 7.3 million in 2008, and 6.2 million in 2009.
The show was number one in the talk show ratings since its debut. Even with the decline in ratings and the constant competition of Winfrey's chief ratings rival (Judge Judy), Oprah still maintained a consistent lead over other talk shows.
The show aired on most ABC-owned stations in the United States (as well as various other stations through CBS Television Distribution, successor to King World), CTV in most Canadian markets, Diva TV in the United Kingdom, Diva Universal in Malaysia, TV3 Ireland in Ireland, GNT in Brazil, national TV3 in Sweden, Network Ten in Australia, La7d in Italy, MBC 4 in the Arab world, and farsi1 in Iran
The show aired in 149 countries where it was often renamed and dubbed into other languages, including:
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