After the grandiosity of the United Center two-parter, Oprah’s grande finale proved to be a much more simpler affair, yet one still befitting of her legacy, executive producer Sheri Salata explains to TVLine.
Salata also adrresses criticism of the last hour’s sermon-like nature, describes Oprah’s mood after the show, and previews the two new shows on tap for the talk show queen’s new journey. First up, there’s OWN Your Life (The Oprah Class) — formerly known as Oprah’s Encore — an “edutainment” program (premiering Oct. 10) that combines great moments from The Oprah Winfrey Show offering teachable lessons.
“She’s going to use those iconic moments … and the unforgettable guests to teach,” says Salata. “If you saw the finale, she’s going to take that idea and bounce it up.”
Salata doesn’t rule out the appearance of celebrity-centric shows in the series, especially since “Oprah can find lessons in everything.” But don’t expect to see too much of the EP/OWN co-president and the rest of Season 25‘s breakout, hardworking Harpo staff. “Aren’t you tired of me?” Salata asks with a laugh. “Listen, if something makes sense, like there’s a story to tell, I’m sure we would consider it.”
TVLINE | The final Oprah Winfrey Show was very low-key. What was the thinking behind that? Was that strictly Oprah’s idea?
I would say it was an organic process. There could be no greater expectation than what those last moments, that final hour, would be. If you were going to try to define The Oprah Winfrey Show over 25 years, you wouldn’t say it was a hoo-ha spectacular at the United Center. You wouldn’t say it was 30 celebrities. Although that’s a delightful part of it, that’s not what you would say. In the end, when you put one guest on — “Why did you have that person? Why did they mean the most to you?” — it becomes more about that than the viewers and the relationship that Oprah had with the viewers, which is really the story here. For a quarter of a century, really just a moment in time in broadcasting, it’s a really special and a unique thing to happen where there was a circular relationship between an audience and someone on television. She could feel the energy from home in various ways as much as people could feel the energy coming from her. … For both Oprah and I, it gradually revealed itself that there was probably no guest cast that would ultimately have felt right [for the finale]. We toyed with maybe asking someone to sing a song, and that’d be the one guest. But I think where we ended up, what we decided to do, was perfect, and I’m not sure that anything else would have been so right.
TVLINE | Were you surprised that some people said it was too much like a sermon, that it came off almost preachy?
Everybody’s entitled to their opinion. Actually, I guess I could understand that somebody might receive it that way. I didn’t get a lot of that, quite frankly. I get a lot of people were poised and ready for it to be about a star or something else — like, “Who’s it going to be? What’s going to be the big get? What’s she going to give away?” What I got a majority of – and maybe people just don’t want to tell me to my face or tweet me [Laughs] – was that it was a life-changing hour of something they could take with them forever and watch again and again. The authenticity, the sincerity, the reverence and the love Oprah has for the audience resonated at the highest level and people felt very uplifted by that. So I didn’t hear a lot of criticism.
TVLINE | What was Oprah’s mood like after the final show?
Gosh. I’m trying to think… I was in a bit of a daze. I could feel a huge release like, “Oh, God, alright. We landed the plane.” I remember she had done that walk through the hall with all the company. That was very, very emotional. … I think I sensed a lightness. Like, “OK. Phew, phew.” Like that, not like, “Oh my God what a relief!” Like an [softly], “OK. Alright.” I probably am the one who felt the big, “Oh my God, what a relief!” It was sweet. It was nice. We weren’t all like laid out on the couch crying hysterically or anything.
TVLINE | Have you decided upon what Oprah’s Next Chapter is going to be? The format of that?
We’re getting ready right now for a big pitch meeting. We have two executive producers on that show. They’re going to sit down with Oprah next week. But I think it’s going to be very much like “anything goes.” We’re just not going to be in the studio. We’re going to travel. We’re going to do interviews. We’re going to do some things Oprah’s never done. I think we want to have it feel fresh. So we’ll talk about how we’re going to produce it to give it a feeling like something you haven’t totally seen before. Time and time again, it all comes down to the content and the heart and soul and the depth that Oprah brings to any topic. I think you can expect that.