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October 6, 2015

Oprah's exit is like Johnny Carson leaving The Tonight Show

by Allison Waldman, posted Nov 21st 2009 11:02AM
oprah_winfrey_head_shotAfter watching The Oprah Winfrey Show today and hearing her teary announcement about her decision to end her syndicated talk show, I had one thought in my head. Oprah Winfrey is doing a Johnny Carson. She's writing her own script (no pun intended). Oprah is leaving while she's still wanted, while she's still strong, and by setting the date 18 months down the road, she's giving herself a victory tour.

This is very much like Johnny Carson's decision to leave The Tonight Show. The difference, of course, is that Oprah's show is not an established landmark entity like The Tonight Show, which had Steve Allen and Jack Paar as hosts before Carson. No, Oprah was/is The Oprah Winfrey Show. She will not leave it behind for someone else to inherit the throne. She's taking the throne with her.

The more I think about it, the more it seems that this is a very smart move by Ms. O. It burnishes her legend. She's going out on her own terms and picking her own exit strategy. Compare this goodbye to Phil Donahue, who should be remembered as Oprah's predecessor, but is generally a forgotten man. Just a generation ago, Donahue was "the man" in talk. The Donahue Show was a huge success in syndicated talk.

Today, the Jay-walking nebbishes wouldn't recognize his name, let alone be able to identify his 8x10. The biggest Phil in daytime now pretends to be a doctor.

You can't imagine Oprah fading like that. She's too big, too mass-media, too Oprah. She also will have 18 months of shows in which she'll be lionized and revered like nobody's business. Then she'll plot her return to television on OWN. We won't have time to notice that she's gone.

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When you have enough time in your day to hate a woman you don't know, you are truly a lonely person.

November 29 2009 at 2:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I see where you're going with this entry, but I don't agree with it being like the Tonight Show. Johnny Carson was irritating, talked over all of his guests, asked them repetitive questions, made jokes that weren't funny, and was forever asking the most nitwit questions. I'm surprised he lasted as long as he did.

November 29 2009 at 2:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Oprah is too powerful, she cannot just disappear. She has so much influence still.


November 23 2009 at 10:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Johnny Carson did not leave when he did simply because he chose to. It is common knowledge that he quit because he learned that NBC had already made a deal with Jay Leno (and his barracuda manager) to force Johnny out earlier than his original planned departure.

All of this was common knowledge at the time and has been well-documented in the press and in more than one book.

November 22 2009 at 9:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

September 2011 is 22 months away, not 18.

I believe Oprah ending her show is a big deal, but her tearful announcement two years in advance was a little hard to swallow.

November 22 2009 at 9:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Matthew Golem

More like Howard Stern... flushing it all away for a payday.

November 22 2009 at 12:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I wish it was sooner.Oprah is pretty over rated and the people who hang on her every word & action remind me of cult members. I'm old enough to have actually seen the Donahue show and, while he too had his faults, he was better than O. And what is it with all the bashing of Dr. Phil? I watched his show for a while, before it began to repeat themes, and his isn't great for sure,but he does have a PhD which means he's hardly "pretending to be a doctor". Does O have an advanced degree?

November 22 2009 at 12:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I actually agree with the Carson comparison.

Oprah has such a power over her viewers, like Johnny Carson did. Jay Leno or David Letterman never had that influence.

Whether you watched her or not, her legacy will last.

November 21 2009 at 10:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It's no big deal, why is everyone wringing their hands? All she's doing is moving it over to her own network. Just wait until July 2011 she'll announce that you can now watch her new show on the OWN starting in Sept. It's a gimmick.

November 21 2009 at 8:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The Evil O will surely return soon enough to resume her reign of terror against good old American common sense, accountability, and dignity.

November 21 2009 at 8:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Rich's comment

Explain to me how Oprah Winfrey lacks common sense. Where is your basis?

November 29 2009 at 2:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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