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Series / The Oprah Winfrey Show

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The Oprah Winfrey Show (1986—2011), which (along with its host) was often called simply Oprah, was one of the most (if not the most) popular and influential daytime talk shows in the history of television, to the point where most people probably think about Oprah when they think of a daytime talk show. It's also the longest-running and highest-rated show in that genre. Basically, just about everybody in the United States and no small number of people elsewhere know who Oprah is.

This show turned Oprah Winfrey into a merchandising juggernaut. Whenever she sticks her Book Club sticker on a piece of literature, rest assured that the book in question will shoot to the top of the bestseller list (though this has caused her some controversy before). She's turned Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, Rachael Ray, and Nate Berkus into successful talk show hosts in their own right. Finally, she's had some episodes over the years that have become iconic TV moments, including Tom Cruise's couch-jumping, the "Weight Wagon" show (where she wheeled out a wagon of fat to demonstrate the weight she had lost), and the infamous episode where everybody in the audience received a new car.

However, there's been some controversy where Oprah is concerned. When Mad Cow Disease fears were at their peak in the '90s, she said that the fears stopped her from eating meat, which caused the beef industry to sue her for defamation. As a result, her show moved to Texas for a month so she could continue filming during the trial. Another such incident was the Book Club endorsement of books that were extremely dubious, like James Frey's supposedly-autobiographical A Million Little Pieces: when it turned out that Frey had made it all up, she had him on and tore him to pieces.

It may be a target for mockery, it may be a Guilty Pleasure, it may be So Bad, It's Good, but there's no denying that whatever you feel about it, it's easily one of the most iconic daytime TV series in history. Oprah also proved she wasn't going anywhere; though the show ended on May 25, 2011, she soon afterwards launched the Oprah Winfrey Network.

You get a trope! And you get a trope! Everybody gets a trope!!

  • Bleached Underpants: Oprah was much more of a Point-and-Laugh Show in its early years (much like Donahue, its direct inspiration), but the decision was made to go "upmarket" shortly after a glut of new point-and-laugh shows emerged in the mid-nineties, such as The Jerry Springer Show and Ricki Lake, and began to threaten her ratings dominance. It worked; she would survive all of those rivals except for Springer and Maury.
  • Call-Back: Oprah once surprised an American Idol finalist with Stevie Wonder appearing behind him, so naturally at her farewell concert Jamie Foxx surprised Oprah with Stevie Wonder appearing behind her.
  • Close on Title: How the Grand Finale ends after a final shot of Oprah hugging her pet dog.
  • Conspicuous Consumption: Not often (which is surprising because Oprah is one of the richest people in America) but she had a three day weekend event to honor famous African-American women throughout history (such as Cicely Tyson, Maya Angelou, Coretta Scott King, etc.), in which each of the women had their own waiter and all of them were given a diamond as a party favor.
    • There was also the well-known "Oprah's Favorite Things," which aired once a year as a kind of Thanksgiving Episode. Oprah would list off some of her favorite clothes, cosmetics, electronics, media, foods, and other products, with every single member of the audience getting a copy of whatever she discussed, totaling thousands of dollars of goodies per person. The episode was chosen for a random date in Thanksgiving week each year, and people would try their best to get their hands on tickets for every taping they could in that week in the hope of being in the studio on the correct day. "Oprah's Favorite Things" even has a page on Wikipedia!
      • The trope was subverted in both 2008 and 2009, when the United States was going through the Great Recession. In 2008, Oprah confessed that it felt wrong to give away lavish gifts during an economic crisis, and instead offered advice on do-it-yourself presents for what she dubbed "the thriftiest holiday ever," with viewers only receiving a book and a photo album; in 2009, the show simply wasn't held at all. It was then Double Subverted when, in 2010, Oprah came back roaring with "Ultimate Favorite Things," which aired over two days and featured an absolute mountain of presents.
  • The Eponymous Show
  • Fish out of Water: Oprah's camping trip in Yosemite National Park.
  • Fun with Acronyms: You can decide for yourself what symbolism is brought by her network being OWN.
  • Grand Finale: The final three episodes. The first two were surprises for her held in the United Center in Chicago, filled with an All-Star Cast of guests bidding her farewell. The final episode was simply Oprah on stage, thanking her fans and her staff.
  • He Who Must Not Be Seen: Oprah's boyfriend Steadman, who never ever gives interviews (not even on her own show), surprised Oprah by speaking on camera several times, including the farewell concert.
  • Long-Lost Relative: Oprah's mother had had a child out of wedlock and gave the child to foster care. Years later, she realized that Oprah's mom was her mom, but didn't want to contact Oprah because she was afraid no one would believe her. Turns out she looks like and has the same name as Oprah's other sister Patricia, who died about 10 years ago.
  • Master-Apprentice Chain: Phil Donahue -> Oprah -> The "School of Oprah"
  • Product Placement: The reason for guests and the "Favorite Things" episodes
  • Reunion Show:
    • The Farewell Season has a lot of these, including a reunion with all of her former competitors (Ricki Lake, Donahue, etc.)
    • Iyanla VanZant, whom she had a massive falling-out with after she became the subject of Oprah's first Spin-Off (yes, even before Dr. Phil).
  • Sdrawkcab Name: Oprah's production company is called Harpo, Inc.
    • Harpo is also the name of a character in The Color Purple (1985), which was Oprah's film debut.
    • The name being reminiscent of a certain Marx brother was probably an accident.
  • Rousing Speech: The final episode has Oprah on-stage, alone, giving an emotional speech expressing how grateful she is for the fun times they've had and thanks all the fans, the staff, and her family and friends for their support.
  • Slow Clap: How the Grand Finale ends as the audience's response to Oprah's speech (mentioned above).
  • Door-Closes Ending: The final shot of the Grand Finale has Oprah leaving the studio for the last time and closes the door.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely/Unlimited Wardrobe: Oprah's brave enough to appear without makeup and shows just how amazing her makeup artist is, not to mention the makeover specials. As for her wardrobe, the room-sized closet in her office is filled with dresses and cashmere sweaters arranged in chromatic order and shelves of Louboutin heels.
    There've been times when I've told my makeup people "my face is still in Cleveland, can you get it to Chicago by 9?"
  • Spinoff: Dr. Phil (advice), Dr. Oz (health), Nate Barkus (interior design), Rachel Ray (cooking)...
    • Dr. Oz calls the group graduates of the "School of Oprah".
  • Talk Show
  • 10-Minute Retirement: Oprah has another show which premiered on January 1, 2012 called Oprah's Next Chapter, which is essentially the same as her show but she goes to the people rather than them coming to her studio.
  • Television Tie-In Magazines: The TV work spawned the O Magazine, Oprah's vehicle for proclaiming the message that a strong woman who believes in herself can do anything she sets her mind to. This has a healthy international circulation; British readers are appreciative of the message concerning strong empowered women who believe in themselves. But they point to the paradox that there is heavy advertising for prescription drugs of a sort which would positively not be allowed anywhere outside the USA. It has been noted that Oprah's message of empowerment clearly involves a chemical component, to use as a fall-back for when self-reliance and self-belief fail. If in doubt ask your doctor.
  • The Unfair Sex: In one episode, Oprah brought on a sexuality expert to discuss infidelity. When the expert suggested that women cheat in relationships just as often as men, she received disbelieving catcalls from the normally well-behaved audience. She shot back by asking them who they think the cheating men are sleeping with; is there just one single woman they all share?