Powered by i.TV
April 23, 2014

After the Oprah-calypse: Who Can Fill Oprah's Seat?

by Stephanie Earp, posted Apr 6th 2010 11:58PM


Rumor has it that Rosie O'Donnell is being set up as Oprah's replacement when the Daytime Queen retires from her eponymous show in 2011. At least that's how the industry gossips put it. The truth is that while Rosie is planning a talk show to launch when the Oprah set goes dark, it's being produced by a different company and will probably run on cable, not on ABC.

But who can resist speculating about who could replace Oprah Winfrey? Since Oprah announced that her show would be ending its 25-year run, a short list of possible candidates has included Ellen DeGeneres, Rachael Ray, Martha Stewart, Sarah Palin, Tyra Banks and even Michelle Obama. But I think Oprah is irreplaceable. Sure, you could give another woman her time-slot, but in the world of daytime talk, time-slots are meaningless. You live or die on your own ability to capture the public imagination.

Rumor has it that Rosie O'Donnell is being set up as Oprah's replacement when the Daytime Queen retires from her eponymous show in 2011. At least that's how the industry gossips put it. The truth is that while Rosie is planning a talk show to launch when the Oprah set goes dark, it's being produced by a different company and will probably run on cable, not on ABC.

But who can resist speculating about who could replace Oprah Winfrey? Since Oprah announced that her show would be ending its 25-year run, a short list of possible candidates has included Ellen DeGeneres, Rachael Ray, Martha Stewart, Sarah Palin, Tyra Banks and even Michelle Obama. But I think Oprah is irreplaceable. Sure, you could give another woman her time-slot, but in the world of daytime talk, time-slots are meaningless. You live or die on your own ability to capture the public imagination.

Of course, Oprah did not spring fully formed into the host she is now. She's had over two decades to perfect her persona -- which can move easily between fun and serious, depending on who she's interviewing. Maybe it's unfair to judge the pretenders to her throne by the high standards she's developed, but most of the people being considered for the job, such as it exists, are experienced older performers. Could they possibly deliver the goods? I've put together a few possible scenarios to weed out the bad eggs.

1. Who could interview Raquel Welch about aging gracefully on Monday, Mackenzie Phillips about sleeping with her father for years on Tuesday, a group of over-50 women who all have HIV on Wednesday, introduce a new musician on Thursday and give away cars on Friday?

Only Tyra Banks shows a glimmer of Oprah's ability to tackle almost any subject -- but where Oprah manages to relate to her subject without shifting the focus to herself, Tyra suffers from 'Me!-Me!-Me!' disease. Seriously, the other day I saw an episode of her show focusing on transgendered children, and she managed to squeeze herself in, talking about how sure she was of her gender when she was a little girl. No kidding, Ty. Ellen could handle the fun stuff, but she strikes me as pretty unwilling to have a cry-fest with strangers. Can you imagine Sarah Palin on the Wednesday show I've described?


2. Who could choose and describe books in a way that make millions of people want to read them?

I would totally take a recommendation from Michelle Obama, but I'm not convinced any of the other people on this list read books. Some of them seem like they don't even know how to read.

3.
Who could manage the daily grind of a syndicated show and still find time to make guest appearances on other shows, run a magazine and occasionally make incredible movies like '
The Color Purple' and 'Beloved'?

Rachael and Martha have proven they can run an empire without breaking a sweat; Ellen, Tyra and Rosie have all demonstrated some multi-tasking ability, and Ellen and Rosie have both done some movie acting. But Oprah was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for 'The Color Purple.' If you've never seen Oprah Winfrey act, you are missing out. I can't say that about anyone else on this list.

4. Who could have a dark secret from their past or current life and finally end up revealing it with class, accruing sympathy without igniting a tabloid frenzy?

Oprah has revealed the details of her turbulent past in small installments over the years -- rape, molestation, the stillborn birth of a baby, difficult relationships, drug use -- you name it, she's confessed to it. Confession, forgiveness and facing the truth are at the core of what Oprah does on her show. Ellen and Rosie have both revealed a huge secret by coming out and both have thrived. Rosie's real secret turned out to be her rage-aholic tendencies, though. Martha and Michelle -- for different reasons -- could never operate on Oprah's confessional level, and all Tyra has to confess is that she used to be awkward-looking, or that she loves herself just too damn much.



5. Who could be one of the highest paid entertainers in the world and have an enormous fortune without making people feel they are overpaid?

Good God is Oprah rich! Right? You know it, I know it, little tiny babies who can't talk yet know it. Usually, when people are this rich, people get a little cranky about it -- examine your feelings about Bill Gates, for example. But Oprah earned it -- it's obvious that she works really hard. In some ways, I think that's the hardest aspect of Oprah's magic to duplicate. Ellen, Rachael, Tyra and the rest are in the business of making it look easy. Oprah subtly lets you know that being current on every aspect of American life from politics to literature to fad diets to health risks takes work. She's always at ease in conversation, but she's the only one who comes out with underlined passages and sticky notes for her interviews. And she doesn't shy away from mentioning the briefings and prep she does before coming onstage.

If Tyra Banks became the richest woman in entertainment, I doubt we'd be so sanguine about it.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

Follow Us

From Our Partners