For the past two days, Oprah Winfrey has experienced one of the most triumphant send-offs in television history. Taped last week, the two episodes were filmed at Chicago’s United Center, and featured a cavalcade of stars. Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Maya Angelou, Halle Berry, Will Smith, Diane Sawyer, Queen Latifah, Katie Holmes, and Maria Shriver all turned out to wish her farewell. Josh Groban, Patti LaBelle, Usher, and Alicia Keys performed. It was, in a word, spectacular. But today’s episode is going to be much more intimate — a goodbye from her to her audience, filmed in her intimate studio. It’s already aired in parts of the country, but most of you will be seeing it for the first time starting at 4 pm. I’ll be watching it with you — or, if you’re at work, for you. I can’t promise I won’t cry.
4:00 Okay, we’re already starting with slow guitar music, and a clip of her first national episode — the one where she wore that magenta carpet cardigan. Cut to her entering the studio today in a salmon-colored dress. She looks like she’s going to tear up.
4:01 The audience, who clearly took to heart the admonition to dress colorfully, is crying too.
4:02 Wow, Oprah knows how many days exactly she’s been working on this show.
4:03 She shows a clip of her very first on-camera appearance as a reporter. MAN. She’s come a long way from those days, when she didn’t have a publicist or a stylist, but “just a Jheri curl and a bad fur coat.”
4:04 As a clip of her in a velour suit (I’m sensing an AWESOME theme here) plays, she notes that her show was unsuccessful without a studio audience. She needed to have other people off of whom to bounce her ideas, to see if she was asking the right questions. Cue a clip of her with her first studio audience in a head-to-toe royal blue number with enormous buttons.
4:05 She shows clips of her outfits, her hair, and her “earrings the size of napkins.” Someone clearly used that line on her and it stuck.
4:07 I couldn’t hear the groans when she said, “Today there will be no makeovers, no guests, no surprises — really, no surprises — you will not be getting a car.” But I assume they occurred.
4:07: Oprah calls this episode “my love letter to you,” the audience. She says, “Every day that I stood here I knew that this was exactly where I was meant to be.”
4:09 What does it mean to “live from the heart of yourself?” I don’t know. I don’t care. It sounds better than living from a 720-square-foot one-bedroom on 14th Street. Sign me up.
4:10 Oprah says we all have a platform. “Mine is a stage in a studio,” she points out. “Yours is wherever you are, with your own reach.” Wherever you are, “that is your talk show.” I feel like I’ve seen four people on the subway today alone who think that the L train is their own “talk show.”
4:11 May I say that Oprah is demonstrating some Obama-level mastery of the multi-camera format. It looks like she’s memorized this monologue.
4:15 Returning from a commercial break, I can’t help but look at the sparkly pink gemstone strand around her wrist. It’s like cotton candy — made of diamonds.
4:16 Oprah says that the United Center performances that aired yesterday truly surprised her. With the exception of Maya Angelou’s appearance, because she called the poet and asked her where she was. Angelou would only reply, “Somewhere.” Oprah does a funny imitation of her voice.
4:17 Shout out to Facebookers and Tweeters. 25 years ago those would have sounded like words only pervs would use.
4:18 Oprah laments that her show used to be about “making bad choices.” She’s “glad we grew out of that,” she says, looking back at some very Jerry Springer-style clips. She maintains the idea, though, that “you are responsible for your life.”
4:21 Oprah cites Newton’s third law of motion: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. “That is the rule I live by,” she says. Then she introduces a clip from The Color Purple, in which Celie tells off Albert. Man, Whoopi was good. (I saw this on Broadway with Fantasia and I cried so hard at this part I physically shook — my boyfriend will never get over the shame of it.) Oprah calls this the Golden Rule. Do unto others…
4:22 “No one else will ever complete you,” she jokes. Jerry Maguire was just a movie. I wonder if Tom Cruise thinks that, or he thinks it was just a previous life of his.
4:24 She shows clips of people taking responsibility for, and admitting to, their deepest problems.
4:26 Someone just sent me this Jimmy Kimmel goodbye to Oprah, featuring Boyz II Men. Who says goodbye better than they do?
4:27 Back from commercial. It really looks like she’s been crying during each break. Her makeup artists could use an Emmy. Or at least a contract with an underwater fashion show.
4:28 Oprah shows her most extreme moments: riding on an elephant, whizzing around in various harnesses, and waking up her neighbors. She says if the show had made it to 26 seasons, she might have finally given in to her staff and jumped out of a plane. Bet her makeup would have been flawless after she landed from that, too.
4:30 Oprah talks about the feeling of unworthiness. Then she introduces clips of Iyanla Vanzant, to whom she wanted to give a show. It never worked, partially because Vanzant never thought Oprah really believed in her. “There’s a difference between thinking you deserve to be happy and knowing that you are worthy of being happy,” Oprah says. “Your being alive makes worthiness your birthright. You alone are enough.”
4:33 Oprah’s talked to a lot of “arrogant mean spirited bullies” on the show, she says. “All of them were masking the same thing, a sense of unworthiness. I’ve talked to nearly 30,000 people on this show … they all wanted validation … they all wanted to be heard.” You should listen to everyone in your life, she adds, and tell each of them, “I hear you, and what you say matters to me.” Not to be cynical, but if I had to talk to 30,000 people, I can guarantee that what each one of them said would not matter to me. However, it’s a nice point, and Oprah’s clearly got a bigger heart than the rest of us. Look at all that pink she’s wearing!
4:36 Man, these are short commercial breaks. Bet that ad for the new Breckin Meyer show cost a pretty penny.
4:37 She thanks the Harpo family, for this “trip of a lifetime.” I’m sure it’s not lost on her team that it’s Oprah’s lifetime to which this trip is devoted. How could you forget when the company you work for is your boss’s name, writ backwards? Then she says she thanks her “team and Jesus,” because Jesus is a Key Grip at the studio, obvs.
4:38 Oprah knows you wonder what “God” she’s talking about when she mentions “God.” “I’m talking about the same one you’re talking about,” she says, in an effort to be inclusive. Though the “Jesus” thing was a little bit of a hint at her home team.
4:40 “Your life is speaking to you,” she says. “What does it say?” I’d prefer not to answer, because at the moment my life is telling me I’ll never be Oprah.
4:43 Amazingly, Liz Cho of New York’s ABC 7 actually asks during the commercial break for people to come back to watch tomorrow, after Oprah’s gone. I get it. Good move.
4:44 Oprah says the one issue she didn’t devote enough time to was “sexual seduction molestation and rape of children.” One might argue that she’s done more than almost anyone on this front (it’s not the same Chris Hansen) but of course one can never do enough. “One of the proudest moments of the entire Oprah show was when Tyler Perry, my good friend, took the stage on this show and told the story of his tale of abuse,” she said. “And then was joined by 200 men.” I watched that episode, and intense doesn’t even begin to describe it.
4:46 Ooh, Tyler Perry sighting in the audience! This is getting me back to the fact that if I had Oprah’s life, I would get a Bentley from Tyler Perry on my birthdays. No! Focus! Sadness, not jealousy!
4:48 “You all have been a safe harbor for me for 25 years,” she tells us. “What I hope is that you will be a safe harbor for someone else.” You know, I never felt like I knew Oprah, even though I TOTALLY MET HER. But I think she’s right that people have that personal connection with her. I’m sad for them today.
4:50 Oh, she gives a shout-out to her fourth grade teacher Mrs. Duncan. I love it when famous people thank teachers. My mother is a teacher and I think everyone should thank their teachers every chance they can.
4:51 She gives out her “personal” e-mail address. Oprah@oprah.com. Hiding in plain sight, eh?
4:52 “From you whose names I will never know, I learned what love is,” she says, genuinely choking up. “You and this show have been the great love of my life.” She is crying! I may or may not be crying!
4:54 “Every single day I came down from my makeup room, I’d offer a prayer of gratitude for the opportunity to do this work,” she said, saying that her exit was “all sweet, no bitter.” “To be embraced by all of you, it’s one of the greatest honors a human being can have,” she added. I liked that she referenced viewers’ partners, “gay and otherwise.” Thanks for that Oprah.
4:55 “I won’t say goodbye,” she says in closing. “I’ll just say: ‘Until we meet again.’ To God be the glory.”
4:56 Oh, she’s crying and hugging people goodbye! Stedman first!! Somehow they made the studio lights twinkle like the stars.