Oprah's Not Over Yet

Oprah raising a glass of champagne on her television show

By now you've probably heard that Oprah has announced her daytime talk show, which has been on the air for a staggering 23 years, will end in September 2011, and already there's clamor over how the daytime talk show void could possibly be filled.

Out of the possible candidates offered in a New York Times article, Ellen Degeneres seems the most likely, but too celebrity-driven, Tyra Banks is the only woman of color suggested as a contender, and Dr. Phil...well, I don't think anyone wants Dr. Phil to be the next king of daytime. In short, there is no replacement for Oprah.

A photo of Oprah and Ellen posing for the December 2009 cover of O Magazine
Oprah and Ellen pose on the December 2009 cover of O.

It's heartening to know that a single African-American woman's actions hold so much sway over the television industry, and Oprah's legacy is nothing to be scoffed at (first black female billionaire, natch!)

On the other hand, she's also created a new culture of consumerism. In an NPR segment, Chicago TV critic Maureen Ryan noted that Oprah is intrinsic to "industrial entertainment" saying that "publishers and the film promoters and people in the entertainment industry who are promoting a new album or a product of some kind" are going to be the people who will miss her show the most.

Most media sources seem to be reacting to curtain call of the Oprah Winfrey Show as if Oprah was announcing her own funeral. But in all actuality, she's simply setting her sights elsewhere. The Oprah Winfrey Network (co-owned by Discovery) will be a "24-hour television experience" in the words of its chief executive Christina Norman, will reach an estimated 80 million homes (not to mention visitors to Oprah.com) an entire new Oprah experience. Not to mention the fact that Winfrey's film company, Harpo Films, has recently teamed up with HBO to enlist Erin Cassandra Wilson (who penned the controversial Secretary) to write and produce a "sexually charged hourlong pilot" about a woman "who leaves her seemingly perfect marriage and children in Santa Monica for the underbelly of L.A., where she indulges her secret fantasies and desires."

I think the legacy of Oprah is far from over, it's simply her exit from network TV that's really shaking things up, considering the incredible state of flux the television industry as a whole has found itself in. Her move to cable is merely the latest in her business-savvy portfolio, exiting the network station for the more lucrative offer of cable television with her own channel. Then again, according to Gayle King, Oprah's friend and business partner though, "This was not a business decision. This was about her life, the quality of her life and trusting that it was the right time."

America--and the television industry--has almost two years to prepare for her departure. What do you think about Oprah's departure and who would you like to see fill her shoes?

Looking for a Leader in the Post-Oprah Landscape [New York Times]
Oprah gets steamy with HBO [Variety]

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