Today is the final Oprah Winfrey Show on regular network tv. I’m sorry to see her go. I can watch her on her own network, but I probably won’t. I’ve seen the titles of some of its lineup – a little too much health, beauty and talk for my tastes.
Oprah was the only talk show I’d sometimes turn on just to see what she was saying. I started watching because she came on after General Hospital. If her intro looked interesting, I’d leave the tv on. I first met Dr. Phil on her show. I liked him there; not so much in the larger doses you got when he got his own show.
There were actors on her show that surprised and impressed me with their intelligence and passion. Politicians, community leaders, writers – Oprah brought out the best in them. You felt like you got to know something of the person beneath the patter and party line.
Her audiences often astounded me – the cheering and chanting, the hysteria that surrounded her entrance. On her ‘giveaway’ shows, I found the audiences frightening. But in the safety of my house, I enjoyed the excitement of the free whatevers too.
But the most amazing thing is how Oprah became part of our social lexicon and arbiter of societal tastes and awareness. And it seemed genuine. I never felt I was getting ‘sold’ something by her. And I listened to her and her guests. I wrote down a list of the staples that ought to be in a woman’s wardrobe as outlined by an Oprah guest. I know how bras and jeans ought to fit, thanks to Oprah. I remember bits of financial planning advice from her show. I remember when she talked about staying as an overnight guest with people and her horror at sleeping on pillows that were a couple years old. I didn’t replace my pillows but when I fluff them up, I think ‘I’d have to buy new ones if Oprah came to stay.’
Oprah’s power in literature through her Book Club is impressive. Increased book sales and the simple fact that she causes people to read is significant when reading seems to be waning as a pastime.
Her show on puppy mills brought awareness to the general public of this horrific abuse of animals for profit. She, herself an animal lover, did this show in response to a call from the public in the form of Bill Smith, a man who advocates against puppy mills. He asked her to do a show and she did.
A spin-off show she did was one of my favourites. Perhaps in response to Donald Trump’s The Apprentice, where contestants fight and claw to gain for themselves the Big Prize, Oprah’s Big Give turned that premise on its end. In The Big Give, contestants fought and clawed to give money away to people who need it. The one who gave away the most won. I enjoy The Apprentice, but I loved The Big Give, and I respected Oprah for thinking of that twist on it – fight to give.
Oprah has influenced our television culture and society as a whole. And she’s done it as a woman of thought and principle. I wish her the very best.