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In March of 2008, Oprah Winfrey appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. "I feel like the mother of all talk shows," she said, and then she bestowed her approval on the younger, newer, talk show host. "You have fun every day," she told DeGeneres. "And you keep it clean."
Now it's a year and a half later, and the almost-25-year veteran has announced that The Oprah Winfrey Show will soon be nonexistent. Of course, her "offspring" are numerous. (We'll never want for talk shows to fill our sick days on the couch.) But the mother show is a powerhouse like no other, and it's anyone's guess whether another show could ever emerge with the same force.
Oprah is so widely trusted that she's actually become a kingmaker. Her show is the ultimate destination to publicize a new CD, a new movie, a new weight-loss plan, a new fashion trend, a new anything. When she announces a pick for her Book Club, it's a golden anointing for the author, a near-guarantee of top sales.
Her grandeur arguably extends into other areas, too. Since her uber-popular show weighs in on any and all topics, she's had a singular influence over American culture in general. She'll offer viewers advice on throwing a dinner party one day, and then tackle sex addiction the next. Her attitude of self-help and inspiration has shaped the way millions of Americans view the world. Who could possibly fill that void when she's gone?
The answer is probably no one. (No one really filled Johnny Carson's shoes after he retired, either. Leno and Letterman are household names, but they have their own styles -- and not nearly as much influence.) If you take a look at the personalities currently vying for daytime viewers, none seem to rise above the pack: Rachael Ray? Martha Stewart? Tyra Banks? Dr. Phil? Bonnie Hunt? Wendy Williams? The women of The View? All are successes, to varying extents, but none of them are kingmakers -- not by a long shot.
With Oprah's departure, though, other talk shows will have room to grow. And if anyone will blossom in Oprah's wake, I think it will be Ellen DeGeneres. Her show doesn't attempt to have the scope or range of Oprah's, but there are lots of similarities. She has followed Oprah's lead with "life changing giveaways," handing out money and expensive gifts to audience members and people who write in with a need. (On Ellen, this month is referred to as "Dough-vember.") She books A-list celebrities, and has an easy rapport with most of them. She involves her viewers like Oprah does. ("Send me your crazy yard sale finds!") And she's made no secret of her admiration for O.
Plus, she's funny (comediennes tend to be that way), and she can appeal to a younger audience. The in-studio DJ and the show's trademark dancing ensure that it's always upbeat. She's self-deprecating, too, and she even seems kind.
Could Ellen pull off a show on, say, sex addiction? Would she even want to? Seems doubtful. The Ellen DeGeneres Show won't ever have the dimensions of Oprah; it's just not her style. But, as Oprah pointed out, she has fun every day, and she keeps it clean.
Even her reaction to the news of Oprah's departure was funny. "She's an amazing woman," said Ellen. "She will always be the queen of daytime television. And she also said she's leaving me all of her money. Which, I was like, 'Gosh, thanks Oprah! Thank you.'"
If Oprah passes her mega-viewership on to anyone, I think that maybe, possibly, it could be Ellen.
Do you think Ellen is the next Oprah? Chime in below!