How Did Oprah Get Her Own Show, Anyhow?

Ok, it’s an old news now, but how did it come to be? (Even scarier, how did Ellen get a talk show???) Oprah was just a local celebrity on the local news and local news-related shows in Baltimore. IIRC, she is not a native Baltimorean, but this was a big break for her…bringing her to Baltimore.

But, how the heck did she get a talk show? Was it by simply having a good agent? Was it her role in “The Color Purple”, or did that come later? Did she propose the idea to the networks? Maybe someone can refresh me on the history…say, how long has she been at it, now, anyhow? - Jinx

Just speculation, but I suspect that anyone who spent ten minutes in conversation with her would be able to recognize that she is vastly more suited for that sort of thing than, say, Phil Donahue.

I don’t watch her show (or any daytime television, for that matter,) with any regularity, but from what I’ve seen I’m glad she’s there and it’s a no-brainer why she has such a loyal following. She rocks.

Also just speculation, but I imagine that it was her idea from the start, and she moved heaven and earth to make it happen. She’s the sort of person that’s motivated get her message across, and no doubt she recognized that a magazine show was the most efficient platform to reach her target audience with.

According to this page, she started out in radio journalism, and was a TV reporter/anchor at the age of 20. (In 1974.)

Short answer: Lifelong dedication.

She projects a great image of sincerity. Whether it’s real or not, I’ll leave that up to the individual viewer to decide.

Actually, Oprah took over a moderately successful morning news show in Chicago, “AM Chicago”. I’m thinking this was… early 80s. I’m trying to remember when I stopped watching (not because of taste, just because I wasn’t getting up that early anymore.) She brought the show from moderate to HUGELY successful in Chicago, and about a year after she took it over it was renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show. You must remember that at the time, there was almost zero presence for black women in entertainment, and in Chicago in the early mornings, a sizeable chunk of the viewing audience would have been black women.

While I’m not a fan of Oprah’s in general, she’s obviously not a stupid person, and even when she was hosting a nothing little morning show, she was very on top of her subjects, very curious, reasonably humorous, and presented herself as a very savvy lady.

The perennial cry: doesn’t anybody read the links any more?

According to Larry Mudd’s link, Oprah had already been a successful talk show host in Baltimore for six years before she came to Chicago in 1984.

AM Chicago was renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show in September 1985, so this was before The Color Purple opened, in late December 1985.

Regardless of how the link may hype-up her Baltimore career, her “talk show” in Baltimore was not as you might imagine a real talk show to be. It was two hosts (Oprah being one) blathering opinions about issues and taking calls to air the public’s opinion. It really was unfocused and not impressive. (At least it had decorum.) Overall, I think most of Baltimore was totally dumbfounded when she got her own show, IMHO. Sure, the show had a following, but it was not a stellar show. You could take it or leave it.

Also, people forget that Donahue at that time had REAL issues to discuss. He wasn’t afraid to tell it like it is; he never backpeddled. He provided a real need where the news media dared to tread. Eventually, he caved in to sinking to the level of the rest.

I don’t follow Oprah religiously, but you get wind of her topics whether you want to or not. It seems only in recent years has she touched on some genuine social issues for her topics. In general, I find her guests and their advice shallow and simplistic - especailly Dr. Phil. (I was at a friend’s house, and his Mom has the show on all the time.) Also, for the few shows I’ve planned to watch regarding genuine social issues, Oprah’s questions are good, but often fail to hit the nail on the head. Sometimes, I feel she is briefed on topics rather than well-versed. She does an adequate job, but I feel she often skates by. I guess this is enough to please the unwashed masses, IMHO. Often, she oversimplifies issues often showing only its “best side”.

  • Jinx