Cultural icon and talk show queen Oprah Winfrey is about to pen the final chapter of her groundbreaking, tear-inducing, mass-euphoria-generating (“You get a car, you get a car!”), phenomenon known as The Oprah Winfrey Show. The final week leading up to the last broadcast has attempted to pack all the prior described content in one last burst before the girl of gab sings her swan song. So far the format has been more of personal sit-downs with past unforgettable guests like Million Little Pieces author James Frey, Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison; and one never before interviewed guest, American clothing king Ralph Lauren.
Through this bandwagon of “most memorable guests,” we certainly can see the journey Oprah has taken from the days of having audience members ask Tom Hanks: “Boxers or briefs?” Whether it was bandying about controversial topics like skinheads in America, or giving away hundreds of favorite things to fans wildly waving their limbs in uncontrollable hysteria, this recap already affirms what we know as the fine work of Oprah. As fun as traveling through misty memories is though, these “re-runs” do not replace the great anticipation surrounding what new “Aha!” moments are to occur during The Oprah Show finale.
Just a couple days ago, a sumptuous taste of whats in store was shared all over the internet, with reports of the likes of Beyonce, Will Smith, Tom Cruise, Tyler Perry, and a truckload more of stars bidding their farewells during a taping of her third to last show at the United Center in Chicago. OW’s publicity team stated that the ticket requests for this particular show were over 150,000 and that only 20,000 of them were lucky enough to be fulfilled. The night served as the Surprise Oprah! A Farewell Spectacular that the staff had planned for months to spring on Oprah, despite her apprehension toward surprises for fear that she may break into “the ugly cry.”
Once the shebang has been all said and done though, what remains for Oprah and her flagship venture with the OWN network? Upon launching OWN, Oprah proudly proclaimed how the programming had been hand-picked by her and upheld a higher standard. An obvious issue from the get-go however was that much of the lineup is content from other networks or not as engaging as say OWN’s better performing shows like Master Class. The numbers certainly are not forgiving, as shown in the May 15 Nielson report indicating a decline from 204,000 to 153,000 viewers, since the first week of the channel airing. To make matters even pricklier, OWN’s Chief Executive Officer for 6 months Christina Norman, made her exit upon the cusp of Winfrey making the transition from running her syndicated show to a full blown network.
Critics ready to pounce on this shaky start should not make the error to count Oprah as down and out. Rewind a quarter of century ago, when a young charismatic broadcaster on January 2, 1984, took center stage on a failing morning program called AM Chicago. The show went from bottom of the ratings in Illinois to being a successful nationally syndicated show by 1986. Think Winfrey is ready to splash on the next decade in the same way? Regardless of the answer, it is clear that Oprah will always retain her status as a media icon that has caused waves felt the world over.