Oprah: Highlights from a 25-Year Run
We hate to even type it, but the time has come when we must bid adieu to our daily afternoon dose of Oprah and her wisdom. The Oprah Winfrey Show airs its final episode today, concluding its incredible 25-year run. It's hard to remember a time before Oprah—and it hasn't been easy, this coming to terms with the end of the show. But we've found some solace in looking back at Oprah's rise to fame and fortune; here are the highlights of her journey through television history.
January 2, 1984—Oprah debuts her first solo show
Oprah landed her first job in media in 1971, at age 17, as a news reporter for a Tennessee radio station. She went on to become the youngest and first black female news anchor at Nashville's WLAC-TV, and in 1976, she co-anchored the six o'clock local news in Baltimore—where she later co-hosted a local talk show called People Are Talking. Oprah moved to the Windy City in 1983 to host the half-hour morning talk show AM Chicago; her down-to-earth curiosity and relatable approach instantly resonated with viewers, and the show became the highest-rated talk show in Chicago; it even beat out its timeslot competitor, the nationally syndicated Donahue. Or should we say, "Dona-who?"
1986—Oprah goes into syndication, with a nudge from Roger Ebert
Did you know that Roger Ebert and Oprah dated back in the day? After hitting it off while filming an AM Chicago segment in which she interviewed Siskel and Ebert, Ebert and Oprah reportedly went on two dates. According to this delightful 2005 story that details a rendezvous at the Hamburger Hamlet, it was during one of those dates that Ebert convinced Oprah to sign a syndication deal with King World. He did this by explaining that Oprah's show would undoubtedly make 40 times more money than his show. Sage advice, Ebert!
September 8, 1986—The Oprah Winfrey Show gets its name, expands to a full hour and is broadcast nationally
February 9, 1987—Oprah takes on racism in Forsyth County, Georgia
Oprah continued to establish herself as a host who wasn't afraid to tackle taboo topics by taking the show to Georgia's Forsyth County, which reportedly hadn't had a single black resident since before World War I. One of the audience members unabashedly used the "N" word, and his exchange with Oprah quickly became a token example of her skill as an unbiased interviewer. She pressed him to explain his perspective, and even invited him back to her show many years later to defend himself.
1988—A little red wagon full of fat
In 1988, Oprah lost a ton of weight... which is totally easy if you don't eat any solid food! To illustrate just how much fat she'd dropped, she use a little red wagon to roll out the equivalent of the 67 pounds she'd lost over four months. It was the first of many eventual weight loss episodes that inspired her guests to live "their best life."
May 5, 1992—The Rodney King Verdict: Anger and Aftermath
Embracing the show's mission to offer a forum for everyday people to air their concerns, Oprah took the show to L.A. to host an episode dedicated to the responses to the Rodney King Trial.
November 22, 1993—Oprah's trainer, Bob Greene, makes his first appearance
After gaining back all the weight she had lost and then some, Oprah brought on her personal trainer, Bob Greene, to the show to explain the importance of nutrition and exercise. Bob was one of the first guests to get a regular segment on the show. Since his first appearance, he and Oprah have penned two books together about healthy lifestyles, and he's written an additional ten books about his "Best Life Diet." Greene has also made regular appearances on the radio show Oprah and Friends, and is a regular contributor to O Magazine.
February 10, 1993—The Michael Jackson interview
Oprah traveled to Neverland Ranch to film this tell-all interview with Michael Jackson, which aired during primetime and wound up being one of her highest-rated episodes ever.
September 3, 1996—JFK Jr. makes his first (and last) appearance on Oprah
JFK Jr., who notoriously avoided these types of interviews, made an exception when he was promoting his new magazine, George. It was a big coup for Oprah, both as an interviewer and as a longtime admirer of little Jon-Jon.
1996—The launch of Oprah's book club
The first book Oprah chose for the book club that put book clubs on the map was The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacquelyn Mitchard. Authors she's chosen since include Cormac McCarthy, Ursula Hegi, Isabel Allende, and perhaps most notoriously, James Frey (more on that in a bit). According to one report, Oprah's sway to sell a book is "20 to 100 times that of any other media personality."
1997—Oprah receives a surprise visit from Mary Tyler Moore
After Oprah waxed nostalgic about how one of her favorite moments in television was getting to reenact the opening segment to The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Ms. MTM walked out onstage and surprised Oprah. It was a super sweet moment between two ladies who totally changed television history.
1998—Oprah's wins the beef trial
After an episode about mad cow disease in which Oprah claimed she'd never eat another hamburger, Texas cattle ranchers sued her for libel, claiming that her denouncement of beef was defamation of their product. Oprah had to move her show to Amarillo, Texas during the month that she was on trial. In the end, she was not found liable.
1998—Dr. Phil makes his first appearance
Oprah met Phil McGraw down in Texas, when his firm defended her against the cattle ranchers. She liked his style and asked him to come on to her show. His no-nonsense approach at first wasn't so well-received, but eventually people began to appreciate his insight. He quickly started a weekly segment on her show as a "Relationship and Life Strategy Expert" and then went on to have his own talk show, Dr. Phil.
2002—The first "Oprah's Favorite Things" episode
We can thank Oprah for the 2002 rise to ubiquity of velour tracksuits; she proclaimed them one of her favorite things, along with croissants and Samsung cameras. Ultimately, the annual Oprah's Favorite Things episodes became an hour of free advertising for products like books, albums, gadgets, and food items. But our favorite thing is the internet's collection of audience-reaction mashup videos. Seriously, these people go totally cuckoo over free stuff!
2004—The great car giveaway
Oh, to be in the Oprah audience during the show's 2004 season premiere! Every guest got a shiny new GM car which was enough to induce the loudest screamfest since the Beatles arrived at Shea stadium.
2004 Dr. Oz arrives on the scene
Another one of Oprah's all-star experts, Dr. Oz made a household name for himself by explaining the importance of diabetes prevention and the benefits of taking vitamin supplements to the masses. After five months of appearing as a resident expert on Oprah's show, Dr. Oz got his own show.
2005—Oprah appears on Late Show with David Letterman
Not really one to be interviewed on the late-night circuit, Oprah visited the Late Show to promote her Broadway musical, The Color Purple. This did great things for Letterman's ratings, which hit an 11-year high.
May 23, 2005—Tom Cruise jumped on Oprah's couch
And quickly became a meme. He was really feeling it that day.
2006—Oprah visits Auschwitz with Elie Weisel
After choosing Weisel's book Night for the book club, Oprah traveled with the author to visit the Nazi death camp in which he was once imprisoned.
October 26, 2007—Oprah grills James Frey
For her September 2005 book club, Oprah chose James Frey's A Million Little Pieces, an apparent memoir of the author's experience in rehab. Though the book was touted by the author and its publishers as non-fiction, Oprah brought him onto the show in 2007 and invited him to dispel rumors that'd he'd lied in the book. It wasn't pretty: Frey admitted that he'd embellished many of the events that take place in the book and Nan Talese, his publisher, admitted that she hadn't thoroughly fact-checked the story.
October 14, 2010—Oprah appears on The Daily Show
Ever the proponent of keeping things real, Oprah visited The Daily Show to help Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert promote their Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.
January 24, 2011—Oprah reveals to the world that she has a half-sister named Patricia
Oprah didn't even know she had a sister until November 2010, when after years of trying, Patricia informed Oprah that they were related. If this clip reveals anything, it's that Oprah can still be surprised, even after all the incredible things she's seen and done in her life.
May 25, 2011—The final episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show airs
Congrats on one hell of a run, Oprah!
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