By Paula Hendrickson
This afternoon, I set my DVR to record the final episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show. While I’m an infrequent Oprah viewer at best, this isn’t the first time I’ve recorded the show. That was Sept. 13, 2004, when everyone was speculating about the huge mystery surprise that was being touted as a history-making event. Was Oprah Winfrey going to break some big personal news? Was she going to have a superstar guest no one else could book? What was going to happen?
My then very-pregnant sister-in-law called that morning. She was in the early stages of labor, but had a huge favor to ask. Would I tape Oprah for her? After all the hype surrounded the season premiere, she wanted to know what the big deal was, but had something slightly more important to do that day.
Turns out, that was the day Oprah gave new cars to everyone in her studio audience.
Let’s just say Oprah’s Great Car Giveaway paled in comparison with the birth of my adorable niece. I don’t know for sure if anyone ever watched that tape, since Oprah’s big giveaway was all over the news by the end of the day.
It might seem weird that I’d record the final episode of a show I seldom watch, but this is truly the end of an era.
Oprah is indeed the Queen of Daytime. She earned the honor not just by delivering viewers valuable informational programming for the past 25 years, but by inspiring people to strive to be better human beings. Sure, some of her biggest fans seem to worship at the altar of St. Oprah, but the woman really has given of herself to make this world a better place—from her Angel Network to personally funding charitable efforts around the globe, when Oprah takes up a cause, people pay attention.
For weeks now, people from all walks of life have been speculating about whom Oprah’s final guest will be. I agree with those who say Oprah should be her own final guest. Or maybe she’ll get Stedman to open up on camera. Some people think her last guest will be a mega-star, but bringing in another celebrity would only detract from the woman of the day.
I have no idea who her first guest was when the show went national in 1986, but wouldn’t it be fascinating if that person could be found for a 25-year follow-up interview?
Yes, it will be strange adjusting to a world without new episodes of The Oprah Winfrey Show, but her legacy continues with The Nate Berkus Show, Dr. Oz, The Gayle King Show and well, even Dr. Phil. Even without a daily talk show, Oprah really isn’t going anywhere. She’s heavily involved with her new cable network, OWN, and still runs Harpo Productions. Oprah Winfrey will undoubtedly continue to be a vital part of the entertainment industry for a long time to come.
Locally, the final episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show airs at 4 p.m., Wednesday, May 25, on WIFR channel 23.
Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Follow her on Twitter at P_Hendrickson and send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the May 25-31, 2011 issue