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Live Blogging Oprah's Final Show

by Maureen Ryan, posted May 25th 2011 10:05AM
Well, Oprah's final show is here. Depending on your level of Oprah love, it's time to either get out your tissue box or your vomit bucket.

But I'm here not to pass judgement on Oprah's 25-year daytime career, offer an assessment of her influence or offer you another list of memorable Oprah moments. The goal here is to share a comprehensive live-blog of the final episode of her daytime show.

Yep, after 283 Favorite Things, 1.3 million audience members and several dozen free cars, the Queen of Daytime is signing off. And since the show airs at 9 a.m. in Chicago, which is where your fearless correspondent lives, you can read about the whole going-away shebang here before you even have lunch! You're welcome.

All right, here we go with the live blog:

9AM: A Paul Simon song about "time gone by" starts out the broadcast and we begin with Oprah going down Memory Lane.

First up: A clip of Oprah's first show. The message of the show, Oprah tells her first audience, is that "you are not alone." Oprah comes out on the stage for her final show in a pink dress as the audience cheers. "There are no words to match this moment," Oprah says. Oprah points out her first co-host from her Baltimore days, who's in the audience, and then we see a clip from her first Chicago job, when she worked for 'AM Chicago.' She had no publicist and no stylist, she points out, "just a Jheri-curl and a bad fur coat."

She didn't have a vision when she came to Chicago, she just felt lucky to get the job. She forgot to ask WLS-Chicago general manager Dennis Swanson if the show had an audience. What a shock to find out that 'AM Chicago' did not have an audience, she said. She's shown doing a cooking segment in her best Anne Klein velvet suit on her first day: New Year's Day, 1984.

She needed an audience, she said, and after the first show they got some folding chairs and brought staffers and people off the street. "From Day 1, Chicago, you took me in... and you told your friends....I heard you say, 'Have y'all seen that black girl on TV named Oprah?'" She said she always wanted to encourage her audience to be more authentic to themselves, "just as you all encouraged me and cheered me on, and occasionally complained about my outfits." She shows some of her worst fashion choices and some really, really big hair. Don't forget "earrings the size of napkins."

"Sometimes I was a teacher and more often, you taught me. It is no coincidence that I always wanted to be a teacher and I ended up in the world's biggest classroom. And this, my friends, will be our last class from this stage," Oprah says. No guests, no surprises, no prizes today (nobody's getting a car, she warns).

"This last show is about me saying thank you. It is my love letter to you." She notes that she never missed a day, in 25 years, because "this is what I was called to do."

Oprah talks for a while about having a passion and a calling, and notes that she wants her audience to "live from the heart of yourself. You have to make a living, I understand that, but you also have to know what sparks the light in you so that you in your own way can illuminate the world."

The Live Your Best Life pitch continues: Each of us has our own platform, Oprah says. We can influence co-workers, friends, etc. "That is your talk show," she says. Really hoping Tom Cruise doesn't come to my talk show to ruin the furniture.

So this is really going to be an hour of Oprah giving an empowerment seminar? Because, truthfully, I was hoping for more Tom Hanks or something like that...

People don't have to do things that make them famous to be of service, she notes. "We're all confused about fame versus service in this country," she says (I wonder, was there ever a prominent talk show that helped confuse those two things in our minds?). Don't waste any more time, she urges. "Start embracing the life that is calling you," Oprah tells me.

So does that mean I can start drinking at 9:13 a.m. and call in sick and I play video games? Er, maybe not.

First commercial break. Thank goodness. A short break from typing uplifting sentences about people's callings and passions.

9:15AM: We got a few clips from the previous two shows, in which a host of celebrities paid tribute to the Queen of Daytime. She said she didn't expect many of the guests who turned up, she was truly surprised by what transpired at the "love intervention on steriods" at the United Center. (Though she admits she did suspect Maya Angelou would turn up).

Again, Oprah says that the show is a thank you to the fans who have put her where she is. We see a few clips from the old days of her show, which were more about conflict and people arguing and getting in each other's faces. "Here's what I learned from all of that, besides not to do that any more -- nobody but you is responsible for your life."

"What is all life? What is every flower, every rock, every tree, every human being? Energy. And you're responsible for the energy you create for yourself, and you're responsible for the energy that you bring to others," Oprah instructs. We see a clip of Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a guest from 2008, who talks about taking responsibility for your energy, and a clip from 'The Color Purple,' with Whoopi Goldberg's character expressing a similar sentiment.

"When you get that -- you are responsible for your life -- you get free," Oprah says.

Sooo.... the thank you to fans is an hourlong lecture on how they should direct and use their energy? I'm betting some people would rather have a free cashmere sweater.

Anyway, moving on. Oprah says her show helped show what people's lives are really like, how dysfunctional they could be. We see clips of guests talking about their experiences with alcoholism, drug abuse, molestation and family violence.

"Little by little, we started to release the shame," Oprah says. Another commercial break.

9:28AM: The trip down memory lane continues. Oprah talks about the sheer variety of things "The Oprah Winfrey Show" did in 4,561 shows (though she never did do skydiving, which her staff had always wanted her to do). "One day we're LOLing with Chris Rock and the next day, we're at Walter Reed, spending time with soldiers who lost their limbs. Then the day after that, we're sitting with a whole family of heroin addicts."

The common thread uniting all the dysfunction is "unworthiness -- not feeling worthy enough to own the life you were created for."

"There is a difference between thinking you deserve to be happy and knowing that you are worthy of happiness," Oprah says.

Sidebar: Thanks to a thunderstorm in the Chicago area, my satellite TV was cutting out, so I'm watching this broadcast from a friend's house. My friend Britt's observations (and she and I area on the same page as the finale hits the halfway point): "This is like a therapy session or a self-help tape. And I bet the people in the audience are like, 'Why couldn't we have been here for yesterday's show?"

Oprah shows a clip from her on-air reunion with Iyanla Vanzant, a self-help speaker and Oprah favorite with whom the talk-show host had had a falling-out years ago. In the clip, Oprah finally "got" that Iyanla didn't know that she was valued and liked by Oprah when they were working together.

"What I got was," Oprah observes after the clip, "we often block our own blessings because we don't feel inherently good enough or smart enough or pretty enough or worthy enough."

And so now it's clear: This empowerment lecture from Oprah has turned into the Stuart Smalley Hour.

Now there's lots of talk about how all 30,000 guests on Oprah's show -- and everyone in general -- wants to be validated. And commercial break.

9:32AM: People have been asking her what's happening to the team at Harpo Productions, which makes her show. The team will still be around and will work on some of the shows on OWN, Oprah's cable network. She thanks her team for all their hard work. How has the show lasted this long? She says when asked that question, she answers, "My team, and Jesus."

What God is she referring to when she talks about God? "I'm talking about the same one you're talking about. The Alpha and Omega. The Omniscience, the Omnipresent, the Ultimate Consciousness, the Source, the Force, the All of Everything There Is, the one and only G-O-D." Any minute now she's going to try to align someone's chakras.

I can't escape the feeling that this finale is serving as a launching pad for a possible Oprah lecture tour. She presents these self-help truisms with great conviction, as if she is the first person to have discovered them. You have to appreciate the conviction, even if you wonder if she's going to start speaking in anything but these Stuart Smalley phrases. "What I know is, God is love. And God is life. And your life is always speaking to you."

"Your life is speaking to you. What does it say?" Oprah asks me. Right now my life is saying, "Holy self-esteem, when is this going to end?" And commercial break.

9:44AM: Oprah says that despite having done 217 shows on the topic, she feels she didn't do enough on the molestation and rape of children. She speaks of how long it took her to "release the shame" of her own molestation, which she went public with in 1986. She said one of her proudest moments was when Tyler Perry talked about his experiences of sexual abuse, and when 200 other men who'd been abuse victims stood on Oprah's stage to highlight the problem. She thanks Perry, who's in the audience, and all the men who "had the strength to stand up." Commercial break.

9:48AM: No stone is being left unturned in Oprah's version of This Is Your Life. Oprah mentions her fourth-grade teacher, who made her feel that she mattered. "She validated me," Oprah says, and Mrs. Duncan, the teacher, stands up and is recognized. Let's hope both her sense of self-worth and her parking were validated.

Your BFF Oprah totally wants to keep in touch after graduation the show ends: She puts her email address on the screen: Oprah@Oprah.com. This is going to be her "personal email account for all of you." What purveyor of questionable merchandise shall dare to spam Oprah??

"I want you to know that what you have to say matters to me," Oprah says, as I wonder whether she's really going to read every single email. "I understand the manifestation of grace and God, so I know that there are no coincidences, there are none. Only divine order here. But I'm truly amazed that I, who started out in rural Mississippi in 1954, when the vision for a black girl was limited to being either a maid or a teacher in a segregated school, could end up here. It is no coincidence that a lonely little girl [and here Oprah tears up] who felt not a lot of love, even though my parents and grandparents did the best they could -- it is no coincidence that I grew up to feel genuine kindness, affection, validation and trust from millions of you all over the world. From you whose names I will never know, I learned what love is. You and this show have been the great love of my life." Commercial break.

9:54AM: Final segment. Our long trip through Oprah's self-help lecture is nearing an end. "Gratitude is the single greatest I will take with me from this experience." Oprah's been asked if ending the show is bittersweet. "Well, I say, all sweet, no bitter. And here's why. Many of us have been together for 25 years. We have hooted and hollered together, had our a-ha moments, we ugly-cried together and we did our gratitude journals. So I thank you all for your support and your trust in me. I thank you for sharing this yellow brick road of blessings. ...I thank you for being as much of a sweet inspiration for me as I've tried to be for you. I won't say goodbye. I'll just say, until we meet again." She puts her hands together in prayer briefly and says, "To God be the glory" and walks off the stage.

She gets a kiss and hug from Stedman Graham and from a few other people on the way out, then does something of an Eva Peron arms-raised gesture as she leaves the stage part of the studio. Over the closing credits, they show her crying as she slow-mo walks through scads of staffers who are lined up in the Harpo hallways. Final shot is of Oprah walking down a studio hallway, alone, with her dog under her arm.

And that's a wrap on Oprah's final show. It really was a distillation of what people both love and hate about the Oprah phenomenon -- there was a lot of rather vague blathering about topics relating to self-esteem, good energy and gratitude, and though it was meant to be for fans, it was really a one-way lecture from Oprah to her people, with no small amount of instruction for her minions and validation of Oprah herself.

It was Oprah telling us how to live our best lives, and if her talking at her audience was pretty wearing and even tedious at times, she does know how to reach into that camera and hold people's attention. She commanded the stage one last time, and she had lessons to teach us; it was one final sermon from the Church of Oprah.

And if you don't want to spend an hour of your life on Oprah's finale, here's the shorter version: You're a good person and people like you. Also, Oprah says "Thank you."

Watch some of Oprah's best moments of the season:


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The world will finally and hopefully return to normal after Oprah isn't filling everyone's heads with her brand of truth. What was really going on for the last 25 years was Oprah openly getting over her issues and she did it in such a way that people began to believe that their issues were just the same. But in fact, there are about 6.5 billion people on the planet and just as many issues and ways of dealing with them…not just Oprah's ways. Please, everyone, breath a sigh of relief and start to work on your own issues, using your own truths, not hers.

May 27 2011 at 9:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You wrote tissue or vomit. you can because of the freedom. vomit is a sick item. Opera has meant a lot to countless millions. Saved many and motivated some to get up and do good. All I'm saying is don't bring any of that negative b.s. into your colume. We don't need it right now. Thank you and have a nice day.

May 26 2011 at 11:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Well, Oprah, I cannot tell you what you have brought to my life for the past 25 years. Learning that I cannot fight fate was a hard lesson for me. however it also taught me humility. I quit my job and stayed home with my grandchildren for 6 years, while their parents were incarcerated for drugs. It was hard, challenging, exhausting, and wonderful all in one. I would never have had the courage to do this if I did not believe in myself. For that I am thankful to you and the encouragement you passed on with your shows. You have changed my life more that you will ever know. Next new venture?? a trip with my best friend. Wish me luck.

May 26 2011 at 10:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I loved your review!!! You hit the head on the nail. She did a lot for tv and the WORLD but that finale was too much. I thought about Phil Donahue the entire time.

May 26 2011 at 7:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I still need your help.

May 26 2011 at 5:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Laurie Allen

Her last show should have the spectacular send off that aired yesterday, and the day before. The show, could have had her graciously thanking the public in a five minute speech. Her last show in my opinion, was a bomb, Take a lesson from the great Jonny Carson, less is more !!! Oprah took a spectacular send off and ruined it by self indulgence. I personally was disappointed.

May 25 2011 at 11:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Interesting stastic was aired on the news this evening regarding Winfrey's fan base.From when her show first aired her fan base toward to end had dwindled by half. She suffered a great loss of viewership which some attributed to her emphasis on spirituality.

May 25 2011 at 10:48 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

If you don't like the story or show, wait a day and something new will come along to hate. It was a good final show, a love letter of sorts to all the viewers. She went out with class, grace and dignity. Thank you Ms. O for 25 years of trying to make the world a better place.

May 25 2011 at 10:17 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Did anyone else notice the black power signal raised in the air at the end.of the show? As the camera was on oprah standing, people applauding, a camera from behind showed the raised arm with clenched fist. The camera stayed on the raised hand fist clenched for quit awhile. Looked to be Stedman This kind of runied it for me. Kind of like the OJ trial when a person on the jury gave OJ Simpson the same sign.

May 25 2011 at 9:32 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to vaughan1234's comment

I noticed it also and was disgusted by it. I wonder if Oprah would be as popular if she didn't give away so much. I only watched the last few minutes and that was enough for me.

May 26 2011 at 1:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It was a nice last show, but nothing spectacular as I thought it would be. I was also not impressed with the shows broadcast on Monday and Tuesday. I expected something real BIG but I don't think we got that!

May 25 2011 at 9:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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