May 26, 2011

My Apologies to Oprah's Fans...

After twenty five years, 3,700 episodes aired in 145 countries, the daytime phenomenon that is The Oprah Winfrey Show has drawn the curtains, turned down the lights, and pulled the plug.  The last show's ad spots went for a SuperBowl matching rate of $1 million dollars per 30 seconds, and no, I was not tuned in yesterday to watch the tearful goodbye. I read about it in TVWeek.

I was not an Oprah Winfrey Show devotee.  I'm sure Oprah is a nice person who can do major things for your career and all, but besides the fact that I'm usually cooking supper at four o'clock in the afternoon when her show has been on, I've generally only tuned in on occasion to see what interesting guest her starpower has drawn in.  It was a stroke of luck then, that had me turning on the TV just in time to catch the infamous couch-jumping interview with Tom Cruise. I also saw a terribly embarrassing interview a few years ago with Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, and Renee Zellweger who were cruising the talk show circuit to promote one of the Bridget Jones's Diary movies. Oprah made the fatal mistake of attempting a game with Hugh wherein she played a slideshow of female actors he had worked with and asked him for the first word that came to mind.  I think she was expecting a series of gushing, Hollywood style reactions to the slides, but that is not at all what she got.  When Julia Roberts appeared on the screen, Hugh said something like "freak".  When Sandra Bullock appeared, I believe "utter nutcase" was the reaction.  Oprah was visibly put off, but Renee appeared to back her boys and never gave in to the usual 'I'll pat your back, you pat mine' mode of celebrity exchange that has made Oprah one of the most smug looking talk-show hosts I have ever seen.  I also don't think Oprah realized that 'freak' and 'utter nutcase' are good natured compliments shared between chums in the U.K. (and parts of Canada).  Colin Firth looked rigid and uncomfortable throughout, and rarely have four people been happier to part ways.

It is interesting to look back on Oprah's influence on society, however. She certainly found a way to tap into the psyche of women (and I'm sure many men and teenage girls) all over the world.  What else would keep her on the air for twenty five years, sell her magazine, and give her the idea of her worth as an entire network? Oprah figured out a way to tell millions of people what to read, what movies to see, what products to buy, what food to cook, what clothes to wear and how to wear them, what expert advice to listen to (namely physician Dr. Oz, psychiatrist Dr. Phil, finance guru Suze Ormon, celebrity chef Rachel Ray, who all have their own shows now), and even who to vote for for President.  Her show covered it all. Oprah's own rags to riches story was interesting in itself and encompassed the elusive idea of the American Dream-come-true, which only made her more popular with viewers. So why am I not a fan?

First of all, I already follow a religion (ba doom ching!)  Seriously, though, I just find Oprah too bossy.  You may remember that girl in school, the one who made it her business to come up to you in the hallway, toss her glossy, well groomed head and put on a confidential, condescending tone while she advised you to start wearing a bra or told you your hair looked better short.  Oprah reminds me of that girl, and frankly, I'm beyond putting up with that now that I'm in my 40's.  I was flipping channels recently and saw that poor tabloid-fodder Octomom sandwiched between annoying finance guru Suze Ormon and Oprah.  Both women were going at her like the glossy haired bossy girls in the school hallway.  "Do this, do that, don't do this, you need to do that...!"  If I were Octomom, I would have told them to mind their own business, but then, she was probably paid a handsome sum to appear on the show - and that buys a lot of diapers. But really, is that type of interview journalism?  No, and perhaps it's not meant to be. But then, what is it?

I have often found talk-shows a bit odd.  The best hosts seem to be comedians when the interviews are less interviews than opportunities for more comedy, or adversely, serious journalists asking intelligent questions people care to hear the answer to. Oprah's particular style of talk-show has morphed from its original focus on sensationalist topics (I believe she started out in journalism) to a format for do-gooders gone wild.  Bossy do-gooders - even worse.  Now they have a whole channel to themselves, the subscription only Oprah Winfrey Network, otherwise known as OWN.  Will people pay extra for OWN, and if yes, for how long?  Time will tell. They'd better invite some A-list celebrities and musical guests to leaven the mood or I have a feeling even the biggest fans will start to lose interest.

Photo by George Burns and found here on the Hollywood Reporter website.


  1. the fact the network is called OWN is a little disturbing in and of itself. She had her moments...and i did dvr the finale and had it playing in the background last night while i wrote...oh well, it is done...freak...haha.

  2. Oprah too bossy(chuckle), don't like the competition, eh.
    Over the years I've seen a a programme now and then. Early on O was the only black face in the room. I suspect for those women who watch, and it's mostly women of a certain income. O is the only black person that they ever encounter. She performs the feel-good function for what are profoundly conservative masquerading as liberal. But what I found hilarious was the Germanic and Nordic leavened with a sprinkling of Celtic healthy female peasantry who might be an Ad for expensive health insurance. And I never saw that many blonde women even in Germany.

  3. though i liked some of her guests and i believe her heart may be in the right place, i find her incessant need to brag about monies donated/number of lives she herself has changed a huge turn off. in my small brain, i believe one helps others with quiet modesty.

  4. Brian: Don't forget she also put herself on the cover of every single issue of her mag.

    Vince: Ouch! Tooshay (touche without the accent) I agree, that O has served a purpose to inspire women to transcend colour, creed and background, no doubt about that. I'm just not sure all that power is good for anyone.

    Eloist petite: I was thinking about that very thing last night. The Good Book says, when it comes to charity the left hand should not know what the right hand is doing. I agree, I found it all a bit much...that's what I meant about 'do-gooders gone wild'.

  5. A bossy do-gooder gone wild. I love it. I call Obama the President that Oprah built. Okay, I don't. But I could.

    This was good.

  6. Okay, now I've read the other comments.

    Oprah started out okay. Then she got to be the richest black woman. Then the richest black person. Then the richest person. And, influential. Making and breaking careers. Building presidents. (No disrespect to Mr. Obama, but the lady's influence didn't hurt him.)

    Now that she is that big, it is obnoxious. I think anyone might get...well, okay, I certainly might get that obnoxious if I had that much wealth and power. I hope, when that inevitably happens, I have the sense to retire gracefully.

    Sorta like Bill Gates. He gives all kind of money away. And while it might not be anonymous, he doesn't produce 180 hours of television a year to tell you all about it.

    Again, this was good.

  7. I've watched Oprah over the years; not consistently, but enough to be familiar with her shows.

    The thing that I have extremely disliked, is that a few people put me in the category of Oprah worshipers, even when I declared that the subject matter was mainly what appealed to me when I watched. I could not understand why people would continue to tease and insist that Oprah was like some sort of God to me.

    Yet, if I "had" to see some other talk show because of its guest or subject matter, no comment would be made. Hmmm...

    I see her, simply, as a very skilled business woman. There are so many others out there tooting their horns, too, i.e. Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Lady Gaga, and so on...all very wealthy.

    A person is only as powerful as the audience that feeds them.

    All that being said, everyone will say good-bye to her or her show in their "OWN" way. :)

  8. Ah come on. She provided for a need that people didn't even know they had. And that's the essence of an entrepreneur. Of course that that need was being led by the nose is a matter for the owner of the nose.
    But if she has helped just one person through the loneliness of living out in the 'burbs/depths of the countryside with 3/4 kids dragging out of them to the point where they cannot piss without one of them attending to the process. The person with the new minted college degree but moving class and not knowing Bridge and looking out over a Wisteria lane. Or the sporty chick, used to swinging off cliffs and having her butt hit by submerged rocks while white-watering her way over wild country. That letting these people know that they aren't alone in their personal hell of not knowing if they are doing things correct WAS an important function for GOOD.
    She deserves many brick-bats. When she went off on her personal crusades but her king-maker rep' came more from her connection to the Shriver wan and by extension to the rest of the Kennedy's. Her attempts to interfere with the longterm political establishment in SA through the schools she established. And for her blatant racism. Ask yourself what you would call a white person denying access to black kids to good schools in a disadvantaged neighbourhood. But on balance, I suspect she saved the sanity of many a 20something woman with 4 under 5 and about to punch out the next.

  9. Vince: I think you could write a post of your own on this topic :)
    I'm not saying she did not do some good, I'm saying she turned that into an empire with herself reigning queen. It became difficult to see the good through the encompassing self-serving mechanism - and the good starts to get obscured by all the glitter, too. But I believe Anita to be right when she says, "A person is only as powerful as the audience that feeds them" (or lets themselves be led by the nose).

  10. Rebecca, I had a feeling that I should come back. You and Vince have added a couple more interesting comments. :)

  11. Anita! I replied by email to your comment but now I see that it may not have reached you. I said in my email to you that your point about Donald Trump and the rest was well taken. And yes, Vince's comments are always interesting. I quite enjoy them! And yours too. Thanks so much for coming back again.

  12. Gosh, I thought I was the only one who didn't watch Oprah. I didn't subscribe to her new network either.

  13. I think she has featured a few times here in the UK, and some of her shows broadcast but I'm afraid the entire Oprah phenomenon has passed me by. Mind you, I'd have walked over hot coals to have her mention one of my books!


I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!