Talk Show Holiday Giveaways: Who Gave the Best Swag?

It's the most wonderful time of the year, especially for audience members on some popular talk shows. Can you say presents? Nah, say it like Oprah Winfrey: "PRESSSSENNNNTS!"

The Oprah Winfrey Show, of course, has blazed the trail to whole new level of audience giveaways. Since 2002, the influential host has devoted a Thanksgiving-timed episode to gifting her audience with her favorite things. Lucky seat-fillers over the years have been given everything from cashmere and pajamas to laptops and camcorders. And their crazed reactions—sobbing! screaming!—became irresistible fodder on SNL. (Remember the sketch with Maya Rudolph channeling Winfrey, when the audience member's head exploded?)

This year, in lieu of another "Favorite Things" giveaway episode, Lady O gave 12 contest winners all the gifts in the nine-page "O List" (Holiday Edition), which appeared in O's December 2009 issue. Fans at home could compete, too, by registering online. Among the 46 goodies: a leather wrap bracelet ($170); a Barbour quilted biker jacket ($329); a 16G Apple iPod Nano ($179); a Kate Spade faux fur trapper hat ($195); and a Virginia Johnson shark scarf ($225). For the first 12 days of December, the magazine selected one winner each day and notified them by phone or email. So, no screaming -- that we could hear, anyway. (All right, actually, there was screaming on Day 12, when Oprah surprised her audience with a giveaway of $500 per person.)

Then there's Ellen DeGeneres, who launched her 12 Days of Giveaways on Dec. 3. Each day, audience members on The Ellen DeGeneres Show -- and one of the online contestants -- received trendy, pricey gadgets and gift cards to popular stores (On Day 11, for example: a $150 Macy's gift card; a Flip Ultra HD camcorder and FlipShare TV; a six-month subscription to Rosetta Stone TOTALe; a 12.2 megapixel GE Camera; and a seven-day cruise.)

But do you recall...the most boss giveaway of them all? Why, it's The 12 Days of Christmas Sweaters! This "beloved late night tradition" is brought to us by Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. On each of the 12 broadcasts leading up to Christmas, a poker-faced Fallon digs his arm into a Santa hat full of numbers—one for each member of his studio audience. The winner is presented with a loud, tacky, "out-of-sight" sweater decorated with stars or snowmen or trees or Santas or Christmas presents. Or all of those.

"Would you mind trying it on?" Fallon always asks, and then nervously unbuttons the "prize" while making awkward, stilted conversation with the winner. "I can't believe we guessed your size.... It looks really cute on you."

The winning audience members always smile gamely, but I know what they're thinking:  "Now I've got an 'in' with Fallon -- maybe he could score me tickets to Oprah or Ellen!"

Plus: Say It Ain't So! Oprah Is Bidding 'Oprah' Goodbye

Did you see any TV giveaways this season you wish you'd won? Chime in below!

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