Is Oprah Winfrey Leaving Her TV Show Behind Too Soon?
Ha! OK, we’re just kidding. Oprah’s a pretty powerful lady—OK, a really powerful lady—but even she doesn’t know the answer to any of those questions. (At least, we don’t think she does!) But she’s already started to use the final season of her show to answer a lot of other questions people have had on their minds for years now.
Last week, she had Lisa Marie Presley on to discuss her relationship with Michael Jackson and the things she regrets about it, namely that she couldn’t help him more. She also sat down with director Tyler Perry recently to discuss the sexual and physical abuse he endured as a young child at the hands of his father. And for next month, she just announced she’s already booked Ricky Martin to speak about his decision to come out as a gay man and, most notably, former President George W. Bush to talk about his new memoir, Decision Points. Talk about juicy stories.
But all of these announcements surrounding Oprah’s final season got me to thinking: Why is Oprah leaving? I understand it’s her 25th season and she has a bunch of other business ventures out there she wants to pursue. I understand her contract with ABC is up and renegotiating another one is something that would take time, effort and (most likely) some sacrifice on Oprah’s part, considering she could probably open a lemonade stand somewhere right now, slap her name on it and turn it into a multimillion dollar operation.
But as I see all of these big-name celebrities appearing on her show to reveal their deepest, inner-most thoughts, I can’t help but wonder where these people are going to turn once she’s off the air for good. For years now, everyone from Will Smith and Barack Obama to Jay-Z and, yes, Tom Cruise have turned to Oprah in order to tell their stories and share their secrets with America. They’ve done it because they trust Oprah to be fair in her treatment of them and because they realize they can reach middle America and beyond when appearing on her show.
Not to get too dramatic, but once Oprah signs off, she takes that trust—and the audience—with her. No matter who ABC finds to replace her, it could take years, even decades, to find and establish someone who could interview a world leader, an athlete and an actor in the same week and get them all to reveal something they’ve never shared before. Throw in the fact that CNN’s Larry King is also signing off this year and we have to sit back and wonder where Chris Brown is going to appear to apologize to the world, where the next international superstar like Michael Jackson is going to sit down and tell his side of things and where celebrities are going to feel comfortable enough to dig deeper than what we see on the surface.
Say what you want about Oprah—she’s built her name into a brand that’s bigger than herself, she caters to celebrities for the purpose of getting them on her show, she’s sold herself out too often—but one thing remains true: She knows how to score big stories and she knows how to tell them in a way that addresses both the tabloid tales and the facts that actually matter.
Oprah just seems to be hitting her stride, too. George W. Bush? Ricky Martin? Lisa Marie Presley? These are big stories that haven’t really been told before. At least, not the way Oprah can tell them.
She may be leaving too soon. For her, 25 years may be long enough. But as gossip blogs and rumor mills continue to become a main source of information, now seems to be the time celebrities need Oprah more than ever.
And once she’s gone, to whom are they going to turn?