Oprah Behind the Scenes Preview: The Scoop on O's Final Show - and the Criticism It Drew

Break out the tissues! This Sunday at 8/7c, OWN’s Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes reaches the episode millions of viewers were dreading — the final hour of The Oprah Winfrey Show.

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.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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14 Comments
  1. Kim R says:

    I think for all of Oprah’s seasons, she had already told us who she was, what she stood for & the lessons she herself had learned & then wanted to pass on. For me, I feel she should have let the 2 United Center episodes send off the show…for the viewers. It was a celebration in her honour but also it was entertaining as well for us. The last show felt too self indulgent to me…preachy and a little “look how wise I am…let me bestow myself upon you now”. I don’t think it was needed. I did not enjoy it at all. Disappointed for sure. Again…that is just my 2 cents. :)

    • Josh says:

      I thought it was a much more fitting ending than the United Center hoopla-don’t get me wrong, I loved it. You don’t do a show for 25 years and not develop a relationship with the audience. I felt the United Center was for her, the last show was for us.

      • Mags says:

        I agree. I think the United Center was for her staff and guests to show Oprah what the show has meant to them, while the last show was Oprah getting to express what it has meant to her. The United Center didn’t really give her an opportunity to say much at all. I’m not even a die-hard Oprah fan and I thought the last show was perfect. I think the people who were disappointed are probably the people who only tuned in for the celebrity guests or big give aways, rather than any interest in Oprah herself.

    • renee says:

      while i enjoyed the united center 2 day gala, i LOVED her final show. friends who couldn’t stand her actually got it. amazing, and so missed. no oprah wasn’t perfect. who is. i rarely watched her daily anymore, but NO ONE can dispute her impact on lives. i’m still blown away by her forsyth co georgia and brown eyes/blue eyes shows.

  2. Gec says:

    I loved the last show. It made me cry.

  3. Kate says:

    I’ve been somewhat taken aback at some of some-what shallow, schmultzy programming on OWN. Its turned me off as it seems to be in the same vein as “Orange County Choppers for women” – not very intellectual and manufautured/not organic. Phil, and even God bless him, Dr Oz seem to take on a “used car salesman”, “lounge singer” vibe when they aren’t sharing the stage with O(& don’t even get me started on the grating Suzy). It really goes to show you Oprah’s talent in driecting energy and decorum – those people do have valid, important information to share but its all in the delivery. And when it comes to Oprah she is the queen even if she did climb on that “peri-menopausal-I-don’t-give-a-sh~t what I say it’s what I beleive” horse and road it into the ground the last 3 years LOL.

  4. Jason Lawson says:

    the last show was amazing. The two part final episode was amazing as well. Patti Labelle made me cry!

  5. D says:

    I know this will sound completely and utterly shallow, but I watched Oprah for the entertainment value. If it was a heart wrenching story (“I had sex with my boyfriend’s brother”, “I almost drowned in a mud puddle”, “I married a serial killer”, etc.), I wasn’t into it. If it was a celebrity I liked, talented kids or something wacky like Oprah and Gail’s camping trip, I was a little more interested.

    Once I figured out what the final show was about, I was gone in five, ten minutes tops. I knew I’d be bored out of my skull. I’m glad the producers gave us the United Center shows or I would’ve been very disappointed with the way the series ended.

    • Lauren says:

      You and I are on the same page. I doubt I will be tuning in to any of her “lessons” episodes on OWN.

  6. John Q. Public says:

    Balderdash!

    Pope Oprah of the Holy Harpo Church is the single, most self-indulgent person to be on television in the past 50 years. This is a person who regards herself as superior to everyone in her field of vision. She can do no wrong as she believes herself to be infallible.

    Together with her apostles, Saints: Phil, Oz, Gayle, Rosie, etc., the Church of Pope Oprah will only continue to lead its sheep.

  7. Sigrid says:

    Am I the only person in America who is repulsed by Oprah? Her over the top yowling sickens me. Her smarmy sentimentality is creepy. Am I jealous of her money and fame? Maybe. But despite all the good she does, she still has gold dolphins vomiting water into her bathtub and other ridiculous affectations. If I had her money, I think I could handle it WAY better than she does. I’m glad she’s there for the people who enjoy her kind of showmanship. I’m just not one of them.

  8. SC says:

    I avoid Oprah like the plague and have blocked her insipid channel on my dvr.

  9. JC says:

    Sad to see so much hatred directed towards her. Whether she thinks too highly of herself or not, I think she’s done more good in the world than bad .. not something many celebs can say. While other talk shows carried on down the sensational route, she at least tried to be more positive and help people live better lives.

  10. SBJ says:

    I had only watched the Oprah show only occasionally in the past.
    I started watching the Oprah Behind the Scenes shows and have absolutely enjoyed watching her and her staff put together those shows.

    I am amazed at her insight and intelligence and have enjoyed learning some life lessons that I fully intend to use in my own life. I found her staff fascinating, and determined to put on the best shows they possibly could for Oprah and us. Loved it!!!

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