Is Gayle King Ready to Emerge From Oprah’s Shadow?

Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King (Harpo Inc.)

Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King (Harpo Inc.)

It’s hard to remember this, but Gayle King had a career of her own before everyone thought of her as Oprah Winfrey‘s best friend. She was a news anchor in Hartford for 18 years, for instance; she even hosted a couple of short-lived daytime talk shows in the ’90s.

But when she started working directly for her longtime friend, coming on board as an editor of O magazine in 1999, the two became forever linked. Now someone who Oprah occasionally mentioned or had on the show was on regularly. They were even taping the road trips they took together.

Now, with the announcement that King is going to co-anchor the new CBS morning show, along with the related announcement that she’s no longer going to be doing her talk show on Winfrey’s OWN network, it seems like the two have broken up, as Wendy Williams speculated yesterday (broken up as friends, people! Please keep your jokes to yourselves). But we see it more as a chance for Gayle to take advantage of circumstances to make a name for herself, in a venue that’s not linked to her best friend at all.

Watch Wendy Williams talk about Gayle “leaving” Oprah:

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The opportunity is twofold: CBS’s near-desperate desire to get some sort of toehold in the morning, paired up with OWN’s epic struggle to attract viewers. No matter how small CBS’s audience is in the mornings, it’s still an order of magnitude larger than the audiences she was getting on cable, where even “Oprah’s Lifeclass” only gets about 200,000 viewers. So, for Gayle, this is a chance for her to show her news chops on a network scale, with a network-sized audience.

But this is also an opportunity for her to permanently break away from Oprah’s protective shadow. CBS is really trying to do something different in the mornings, and believe it or not, “Today” and “GMA” are looking a bit vulnerable these days, mainly because the two shows have become almost indistinguishable from each other.

Cooking segments, fashion shows, Kardashian coverage that passes as news, panels with Star Jones — lately, both shows have been more reminiscent of “The View” than a place where people can get the news of the day over their bran flakes (even “The View” is newsier than these shows sometimes). People who are looking for something a little more informative might flip over to CBS, with King, Charlie Rose and Erica Hill concentrating on the news of the day, and stick around. Will CBS get out of third place with this strategy? Probably not, and they may end up firing everyone before the London Olympics are over. But even if they leach away a few hundred thousand viewers from each show, it’ll be news.

If there was any time for Gayle to separate herself from her super-famous bestie, then, this would be the time. Let’s just hope for Gayle’s sake that Oprah is magnanimous about this move as the statements we’re hearing are making her sound. After all, when CBS decides to revamp the show yet again, Gayle’s going to have to go somewhere, right? There’s nothing scarier than an Oprah scorned.

Watch Jimmy Kimmel talk about the Oprah-Gayle “break-up”:

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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