After 25 years and more than five-thousand episodes, “The Oprah Winfrey Show” calls it a wrap this week. One of the longest running and most successful shows in daytime television history, “Oprah” will bow out Wednesday on what is expected to be one of the most-watched TV events of the year. Since its national launch in September 1986, the Chicago-based talk show and its namesake host have become fixtures in pop culture and made Oprah Winfrey one of the richest and most influential women in the world. From book clubs to celebrity interviews, spiritual upliftment to car giveaways, “Oprah” became the go-to-show for almost everyone and everything over the decades. It’s no wonder advertisers are spending big bucks to hock their wares during the show’s final episode this Wednesday. A 30-second spot is reportedly costing one-million-dollars — a record for a non-sports daytime broadcast, according to insiders.
The countdown to “Oprah’s” final show began in November, 2009. That’s when a tearful Winfrey took to the airwaves and announced that her beloved talk show would come to an end after its 25th season. That day arrives this Wednesday, May 25th. Two star-studded episodes, taped last week at Chicago’s United Center, are leading up to the grand finale.
Winfrey’s now turning her focus to her latest media venture. The “Queen of Talk” is continuing to do what she does best, only now on cable. The Oprah Winfrey Network, or OWN for short, launched in January with a roster of new shows; some starring a few of Oprah’s celebrity pals. One of those pals, Rosie O’Donnell, will fill Oprah’s space once the media royal clears out of her Harpo Studios in Chicago this week. Rosie will begin taping her OWN talk show in the studio Oprah built. Her show will debut this fall.
Over the years, “The Oprah Winfrey Show” has staked its claim to some of television’s most memorable moments. The following is a look at some of those moments.
September 8, 1986 — “The Oprah Winfrey Show” makes its national debut. The premiere episode dealt with the topic of marrying the right person.
November 15, 1988 — Wearing slim-fitting jeans and a black turtleneck, a lean and svelte Oprah walked out onto the stage of her talk show pulling a wagon filled with 67 pounds of fat — a visual representation of the weight she had lost.
February 10, 1993 — Oprah’s live interview with reclusive pop star Michael Jackson became one of the highest-rated televised interviews in history. More than 100-million people around the world tuned in to watch the Queen of Talk converse with the King of Pop as Jackson tried to dispel various rumors about him.
April 16, 1996 — Oprah’s remarks during an episode dealing with mad cow disease set off a firestorm of controversy that led to a libel lawsuit. Texas cattle ranchers accused Oprah of defaming the beef industry when she said she would not eat another burger for fear of contracting the disease. Winfrey was forced to testify at a trial in Amarillo, Texas. She moved her show to Amarillo for one month during the trial proceedings. She was eventually found not liable.
September 13, 2004 — Oprah opened the 19th season of her show by giving every member of her studio audience a brand new car donated by General Motors.
May 23, 2005 — Hollywood star Tom Cruise hopped on Oprah’s couch while expressing his love for new girlfriend Katie Holmes. The incident has been parodied many times in the media since then.
January 26, 2006 — Oprah confronted author James Frey after Frey admitted to including false facts in his best-selling memoir “A Million Little Pieces.” Oprah had helped Frey promote this book through her popular book club and even defended him publicly when reports first surfaced about the false facts. She dressed down the author on her show when she invited him back to address the controversy. Oprah said she felt “duped.”
November 20, 2009 — A tearful Oprah announced that she would end her longrunning daytime talk show in 2011 at the end of its 25th season.
September 13, 2010 — On the premiere episode of her 25th and final season, Oprah announced she was flying all 300 audience members with her to Australia and that Hollywood star John Travolta would serve as their pilot.