You can stop wondering why Oprah Winfrey is TV’s undisputed champion. It all comes down to showmanship, and Monday’s opening episode of her 25th and final season showed that, when it comes to that, Oprah has no equal.
Everything about Monday’s ‘Oprah Winfrey Show‘ was so over-the-top that it just took your breath away – when you weren’t weeping along with every member of her studio audience. They were informed – all 300 of them – that they’ll be going with Oprah to Australia on a Qantas jet piloted by John Travolta. It was an incredible stunt to put together – a year in the making, according to Oprah. And though it was the grandest thing she’s ever done, it was vintage Oprah Winfrey, an announcement so dramatic that you couldn’t help jumping out of your chair and screaming, just like Oprah and the fanatical fans who had been hand-picked to sit in her audience.
It was a show filled with incredible surprises that indicated that Oprah refuses to go quietly into her last hurrah. She introduced us to some of her superfans – people who devoted thousands of hours of their lives to watching ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ for two and a half decades – people like the woman named Linda from Ontario, who raised money to build a home for orphans in Africa because she was inspired by an Oprah show; and a man named Larry, a NASCAR fan who watches Oprah religiously from his self-styled garage and man cave, who was brought to Chicago at the invitation of NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson, who Oprah arranged to have drive into Larry’s driveway to deliver her invitation personally.
Then there was the group of six lady Oprah fans from Boston, who have gathered in a local diner to watch Oprah almost everyday for nearly 25 years, and who Oprah’s friend, Gayle King, brought on a road trip to Chicago. For this stunt, Oprah’s production crew disguised the rear entrance of her Harpo Studios as a parking garage and these thunderstruck women were driven right on to Oprah’s stage during Monday’s premiere, completely unaware that they’d wind up as stars of Oprah’s season opener with front-row seats reserved just for them.
Don Johnson turned up in a surprise walk-on appearance to ceremoniously return a pair of rhinestone-studded glasses ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ sent him in 1986 as an enticement to get him to come on the show back then as a guest. He declined at the time, claiming he was too busy filming ‘Miami Vice.’ But there he was yesterday, surprising Oprah with the very same glasses – an appearance on Oprah’s stage that lasted all of two minutes.
Oprah opened the show with Travolta, 11 times a guest on the talker, who danced with Winfrey to the tune of “Love Train” by the O’Jays. And the show closed with another surprise for Oprah and her audience – Paul Simon, who sang an updated version of a song he wrote and performed in her 10th season in 1995 – a song called “Ten Years” whose lyrics were changed to reflect her 25 seasons.
Oprah wept, the audience wept, we all wept. The episode confirmed what we already know – there’s a reason why Oprah Winfrey is the Queen of television: No one does it better or bigger than she does. Who else in TV today has the juice and financial resources to put such a show together? No one but Oprah. Long live the Queen!
Did you watch Oprah’s season opener? Were you as stunned as we were at the spectable of it all?