What do you think? Oprah

November 30, 2009
By | 4 Comments

Winfrey Show EndingLast week Oprah Winfrey announced that when her current contract expires in September 2011, she will end her talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, after 25 years. Now that you’ve had ample time to digest that news and recover from your t(of)urkey overdose, we want to know what you think about Oprah’s move and its ramifications for media industries and audiences.

Will viewers of the talk show necessarily flock to OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, the cable channel she’s preparing to launch with Discovery?

How is OWN (which was announced in 2008 and was originally supposed to launch this year) different from Oprah’s earlier foray into cable, Oxygen?

Assuming audiences do take to OWN, will they desert network TV during the afternoon to do so?

In the context of Oprah’s decision to end The Oprah Winfrey Show, what do we make of her even more recently announced deal with HBO to produce Erin Cressida Wilson’s (of Secretary fame) new pilot about a woman who leaves her husband and children to embark on some sort of sexual vision quest?

Aside from her multi-media production deals, will Oprah be able to promote books, films, and personalities as effectively as she has in the past without a daily show on a broadcast network?

While Oprah is clearly uninterested in retiring, her daily presence on the TV screen will likely be a substantial loss to her sizable audience of regular viewers. While Oprah is not a religion, she is, in many ways, a spiritual figure who has built a relationship with audiences around rituals. What does is mean for her to abandon what the New York Times knowingly called her “pulpit”?


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4 Responses to “ What do you think? Oprah ”

  1. Josh David Jackson on December 1, 2009 at 9:45 AM

    Yes, ritual. (Thanks, TV model based around predictable, open-ended, and regularly-scheduled programming!) It’s hard (perhaps impossible) to make predictions about Oprah because she’s such so inimitable. Maybe we can try, though: Who is the most trusted, most beloved popular figure who doesn’t have a daily TV show?

  2. Erin Copple Smith on December 1, 2009 at 10:47 AM

    I keep thinking about the “who’s going to replace her!?” idea. Why is this such a big issue? Why do we need anyone to “replace” Oprah? It’s not as though she’s the host of a more generalized talk show. Yes, Johnny Carson needed a replacement for The Tonight Show. And Meredith Viera needed a replacement for The View. And Bryant Gumbel for Today. But Oprah’s show is…The Oprah Winfrey Show. How can anyone replace her? “The Oprah Winfrey Show, with Ellen Degeneres”!?

    I understand the discussion–the ruminations are related to the forthcoming opening in the 4pm syndicated talk show timeslot. But…still. She’s not being “replaced”–her show simply can’t have a replacement.

  3. Kelli Marshall on December 2, 2009 at 3:37 PM

    I’m particularly interested in your comment that “while Oprah not a religion, she is, in many ways, a spiritual figure.” Indeed, like the leaders of the major (and minor) religions, Oprah draws devoted followers. Her actions change people’s lives (they are reborn, so to speak). She communicates easily with the rich and the poor. To many, her words represent “truth,” the light. She created an “Angel Network” for cryin’ out loud. In essence, Oprah is worshipped. With this analogy in mind, it’s definitely interesting to think about how the talk-show queen (savior?) may be replaced… Thanks.

  4. Megan Biddinger on December 4, 2009 at 6:28 PM

    I think that Oprah’s status as something of a spiritual leader is what puts a twist on the otherwise banal question of who or what will come next. Her show is ritualized in the way that so much TV is, but it’s also full of actual rituals, activities that we might go so far as to call sacraments (Confession/penance, annointment). She’s not just cancelling a show, at some level it’s like she’s canceling daily Mass. I don’t mean to ignore the fact that a lot of the “What/who next?” questions are motivated by concerns about potentially lost or displaced revenue. Likewise, I don’t want to overstate Oprah’s significance to all (or any) of her fans. Maybe the question isn’t so much about who will replace Oprah, but how strong is the faith of her fans.

    As for Josh’s question, I think we might need to look beyond who is already trusted. Oprah’s been doing her thing for the better part of my lifetime, but she wasn’t the full-blown cultural phenomenon for all of that time. There must be some players at a regional or sub-cultural level, but I can’t point to any right now. It occurs to me that I’ve been reading this decision as the start of her decline, but I suppose we can’t know that for another couple of years.