Oprah ends 25-year talk show reign with final star-studded event

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The Independent Culture

As the queen of daytime talk shows, one of the most influential media personalities and wealthiest women in the US, Oprah Winfrey taped her final show, "Surprise Oprah! A Farewell Spectacular," after a week of star-studded guest appearances, to air May 25.

The content of the finale has remained a secret, but the show's producers promised Winfrey's Hollywood 'friends' from film, television and music would pay tribute, such as John Travolta, who has frequently been a guest and experienced the "Oprah Effect."

Oprah's endorsement has had a Midas Touch, helping to launch careers, beauty products and turning dozens of books from her Book Club into bestsellers, read by her 42 million fans. She has also not shied away from social issues from race to domestic violence. Some say she was instrumental in electing US President Obama.

After 5,000 episodes, the taping of the last Oprah Winfrey Show was moved from her television studio into Chicago's United Center 20,000-seat sports arena. Tickets were free and distributed via a lottery after the show received 154,000 requests.

The shows during the final week included a parade of performances and celebrities creating a television event. Tom Hanks hosted one show with Tom Cruise as the first guest.

Madonna appeared to say that Oprah was her living role model: "She's a self-made woman who's been at the top of her game for over 25 years and she is still kicking ass!"

Other guests and performers included Beyoncé, John Legend, Halle Berry, Katie Holmes and Queen Latifah who shared their admiration. Oprah's response, "I feel the love."

Between each guest, video on big screens played Oprah's most memorable moments and footage of her philanthropic gestures, from giving away a free automobile to each member of the audience to the schools she's had built around the world.

Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith hosted another show with performers including Jamie Foxx joined by Stevie Wonder who wrote a song for Oprah, Usher, comedian Jerry Seinfeld, and poet Maya Angelou, accompanied by Alicia Keys on piano who also performed "Super Woman." Aretha Franklin also sang "Amazing Grace."

"I always thought I would take my cues from the viewers. I took the cue from the landscape of television," Winfrey told The Hollywood Reporter. "It got harder and harder and harder to raise the bar every day. What we're doing is primetime television done in the daytime."

Since The Oprah Winfrey Show began in 1986, her media empire also publishes O magazine and produces films, such as Precious and Beloved through Harpo Productions. She also acted in The Color Purple and launched a cable network.

With the shuttering of the syndicated talk show after 25 years, she will turn her attention to OWN, the five-month-old cable/satellite network struggling with ratings. Despite speculation, she is not expected to move her daily show to the channel.

Winfrey transformed daytime television by being a woman speaking to women viewers. Fans who miss her can watch her cable channel, but television stations that have enjoyed her highly-rated show may feel the impact more.