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Oprah Winfrey
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The 25th and final season of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" starts airing Monday and the talk show host says she plans to focus on the people she thinks are responsible for the show's success: the viewers.
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updated 9/14/2010 6:02:23 PM ET 2010-09-14T22:02:23

The 25th and final season of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" starts airing Monday and the talk show host says she plans to focus on the people she thinks are responsible for the show's success: the viewers.

"This year you will see lots of surprises for other people, dreams coming true for other people, really honoring the essence of what has made this show work for the past 25 years and that's the viewer," Winfrey said in an interview with The Associated Press.

"The last season is a celebration of the past 24 years. For me, it is about holding a place of reverence and honor for the people who made this possible for me: that would be the viewers."

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Harpo Productions has released a schedule highlighting the first week of new shows, but Monday's season premiere remains "top secret" with only hints of celebrity guests and a surprise musical performance.

During the remainder of that first week, Winfrey will host country music stars The Judds and revisit the city of Williamson, W.Va., where she filmed a town hall episode about AIDS in 1987. During a live Friday show, she will announce her first book club selection in nearly a year.

So what else can fans and longtime watchers expect over this season? A-list celebrities? More makeovers? An outdoor extravaganza similar to Winfrey's show that shut down Chicago's Michigan Avenue last season?

"I would anticipate that they're going to pull out all the stops," said Bill Carroll, an expert on the daytime television market for Katz Television in New York. "If any production team has that ability and certainly the Oprah folks, the folks at Harpo, have proved that over the years."

Winfrey's departure from a daily talk show on broadcast television is akin to host Johnny Carson's departure from "The Tonight Show," Carroll said.

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"People of a certain era remember Johnny Carson's last show," Carroll said. "This generation is going to, in a bittersweet way, say goodbye to this chapter of Oprah's story."

But this farewell isn't a final goodbye. Winfrey is set to launch her Oprah Winfrey Network, or OWN, on cable Jan. 1. The end of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" will be featured on that network with "Behind the Scenes: Oprah's 25th Season," a one-hour series giving viewers a look at the making of the last season of Winfrey's talk show.

Winfrey describes her show, which is syndicated to 145 countries, as having a cultural impact on her viewers around the world.

"I'm learning more about that and being more accepting of what that has been as I look over these 25 years and prepare to go into the last season — hearing stories about how the show has affected people's lives over the years," Winfrey said.

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Jennifer Todd, 43, of Dothan, Ala., says she has watched Winfrey for at least the last 20 years. Todd expects Winfrey's last season to be huge and filled with charity efforts.

On her 19th season premiere in 2004, Winfrey gave a car to the nearly 300 people in her studio audience. It was a $7 million giveaway during which she famously exclaimed, "You get a car! You get a car! You get a car! Everybody gets a car!"

"I think she's going to be full of surprises this year," Todd said after stopping in Chicago's West Loop neighborhood to snap photographs of Harpo Studios. "She's such a giver. I think she's going to use this as a last chance to give even bigger than before."

Janice Peck, author of "The Age of Oprah: Cultural Icon for the Neoliberal Era," foresees Winfrey filling the season with giveaways, flashbacks and visits from past guests "who can come in and talk about how they've been affected by her."

She has hosted high-powered celebrities as Michael Jackson, Julia Roberts and John Travolta. Tom Cruise famously jumped on Winfrey's sofa to proclaim his love for wife Katie Holmes.

Winfrey's sofa has been the go-to seat for many caught up in controversy, too.

Last season, Rielle Hunter, the mistress of former U.S. senator and presidential candidate John Edwards, told Winfrey her story. And an apologetic Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, told Winfrey what was behind an offer to sell access to her former husband, Prince Andrew.

"She's going to hit the nostalgia button very strongly," Peck said.

Last November, when Winfrey made a live emotional statement announcing she would end her show after a quarter-century, she touched on her final season, too, saying, "We are going to knock your socks off."

But what does that mean for a billionaire often described as one of the most powerful women in the world? Peck thinks it will be a season filled with the kind of top-notch shows that only air during viewer-wooing sweeps periods.

"That's what knocking the socks off is," Peck said.

Kathleen Rooney, author of "Reading With Oprah: The Book Club that Changed America," said for many Winfrey fans, come Monday, it won't be the beginning of the end.

"It's not goodbye. It's see you over here in a minute," Rooney said. "There's a generation of people who don't know what it's like to live in a world without Oprah — and they're not going to find out anytime soon."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Oprah begins 25th and final season

  1. Transcript of: Oprah begins 25th and final season

    JENNA WOLFE, co-host: The 25th season of Oprah kicks off on Monday, marking the final season of Winfrey 's much-celebrated syndicated broadcast. The show is promising lots of surprises, and, based on Oprah 's reign as daytime talk show queen, she's guaranteed to deliver.

    WOLFE: Oprah Winfrey plans to make this goodbye one to remember. Her show's farewell season is being billed as like no other.

    Ms. HANNAH LAWRENCE (Hollywood.com): The first week is going to be primarily a celebration. It's going to be a lot of musical performances, a lot of celebrity guests and a lot of giveaways for the audience members.

    WOLFE: For 25 years, " The Oprah Winfrey Show " has delivered a mix of self-help, spirituality and confession to a mostly female audience, its host letting viewers into her life even as she guided them through theirs.

    Ms. JENNIFER ARMSTRONG (Entertainment Weekly): So many other people have come and gone in this same format, and it's all about the woman at the center and the fact that everybody wants to be her best friend .

    WOLFE: Fans will likely remember the famous interviews, the show's more iconic moments, and her more serious commitment to humanitarian efforts. The talk show queen and self-made billionaire, her estimated net worth 2.4 billion, she's one of the country's most influential women. It's the so-called Oprah effect that has made books into best-sellers and launched a string of successful spin-off shows. It was that kind of influence the Obama campaign was looking for in the 2008 presidential campaign.

    Ms. OPRAH WINFREY: We need politicians who know how to tell the truth .

    WOLFE: But even as Oprah winds down her show, she'll be expanding her media empire with the new Oprah Winfrey Network .

    Ms. LAWRENCE: Oprah calls her new network a channel of self-discovery, so it's going to be motivational shows, inspirational shows, family-oriented shows. And the way she sees it is she's going to make our lives better by giving us better content.

    WOLFE: Changing lives through television, Oprah style. Here with more on Oprah 's last season and the next chapter in her life is Ileane Rudolph , senior writer for TV Guide magazine . Ileane , good morning.

    Ms. ILEANE RUDOLPH (Senior Writer, TV Guide Magazine): Good morning.

    WOLFE: Well, you had quite an opportunity. You got an exclusive 45-minute phone chat with Oprah Winfrey with -- even if she said nothing but breathe for 45 minutes, would be pretty cool.

    Ms. RUDOLPH: She was very generous with her time. She was lovely, she was friendly. She said some very interesting things. She opened up a bit. I mean, that's her -- that's what she does, she opens up.

    WOLFE: Right. For people who don't know, she loves the show and loves what she does for a living. She said, quote, "I didn't have children, I had the show." And that sums up, right, how important this really was for her. I mean, how does she feel about just saying goodbye to the last 25 years of her career?

    Ms. RUDOLPH: Well, she said she's going to try not to cry.

    WOLFE: Do you believe her?

    Ms. RUDOLPH: But -- no, she's going to cry.

    WOLFE: Of course.

    Ms. RUDOLPH: When she thinks about her audience, that's what makes her cry. She's very attached to her viewers. She calls them -- she doesn't like to say fans. She says they're her ultimate viewers.

    WOLFE: OK.

    Ms. RUDOLPH: And she wants to make this year about ultimate viewers.

    WOLFE: And they are -- who made her who she is.

    Ms. RUDOLPH: Exactly. Yeah.

    WOLFE: Because they follow her. Now the final season premiers tomorrow, she's calling -- she's got a top secret show . She's got a lot of secrets on the show. Also this week, some other names, Wynonna Judd , the woman who got acid dumped on her face.

    Ms. RUDOLPH: Right.

    WOLFE: The book club is coming out again. What does she -- and does she give you any insight? I know she's trying to keep it under wraps. Any insight of any surprises at all we might see this...

    Ms. RUDOLPH: Well, the first show will have John Travolta .

    WOLFE: Oh. OK.

    Ms. RUDOLPH: And she's going to have -- I think she's going to have every celebrity she's ever had on the show, certainly Tom Cruise . I'm sure that President Obama will show up in some way. She's going to go back and revisit the social issues that were so important to her, so when she went to West Virginia many years ago, they shunned a young man with AIDS . She's going back there to see how they feel now.

    WOLFE: OK.

    Ms. RUDOLPH: She's going back to Forsyth County , Georgia , which was all white when she was there a couple of decades ago and they used the N-word with her, to her, and now the guy who was so racist at that point is going to take her around and show her how Forsyth County , Georgia , has changed.

    WOLFE: What I like about what she's doing is she says she's going to go back, she's going to revisit a lot of these places and touch upon these stories, but the celebrities she's bringing on, she doesn't want anyone to come promote any of their work, she just wants them to come, right, and just talk about themselves or have experiences.

    Ms. RUDOLPH: Right. And she told me she wants to put unlikely celebrities together. So some magic might be created.

    WOLFE: Really?

    Ms. RUDOLPH: Yes. That's what she's hoping for.

    WOLFE: Now, I know she's not a big fan of surprises, but did she say that she's -- she'll be willing to at least be surprised once or twice this last season?

    Ms. RUDOLPH: She may lift the ban on surprises this year because the big surprise that made her cry and she was so embarrassed was when Mary Tyler Moore came on.

    WOLFE: Right.

    Ms. RUDOLPH: And after that she said no surprises. She was surprised last year with the...

    WOLFE: The Black Eyed Peas , right?

    Ms. RUDOLPH: The Black Eyed Peas concert.

    WOLFE: Yeah.

    Ms. RUDOLPH: And she almost killed her staff, but then she forgave them. And she said she may have to lift that ban.

    WOLFE: Let me ask you this. The woman has so much money she doesn't even know where else to spend it, she has a phenomenal-colored career.

    Ms. RUDOLPH: Mm-hmm.

    WOLFE: Why not retire? Why does she want to keep working? She's now starting the OWN network.

    Ms. RUDOLPH: Well, whenever she thinks about retiring -- and she's told people 10 years ago, five years ago, her friends that she might retire, Stedman , her longtime companion, of course, Gayle King , her best friend .

    WOLFE: Right.

    Ms. RUDOLPH: They just laugh and they say, 'In six months you will be tearing your hair out, you will be so bored. You need to work, you need to do something productive.' And Oprah said to me what's most important is that her life has meaning for other people.

    WOLFE: Real quick, can anyone fill her shoes?

    Ms. RUDOLPH: No.

    WOLFE: Really?

    Ms. RUDOLPH: No. Because it's...

    WOLFE: I'm sitting right in front of you, Ileane . You're going to tell me nobody can fill...

    Ms. RUDOLPH: OK, maybe you.

    WOLFE: No, I'm just kidding. Absolutely not.

    Ms. RUDOLPH: But it's not just -- it's not just talent.

    WOLFE: It's...

    Ms. RUDOLPH: It's because the daytime landscape has changed so much.

    WOLFE: Right. Ileane Rudolph , thank you so much for your insight. We really appreciate it. Look forward to reading that. And now here's Carl .

Photos: Oprah Winfrey

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  1. 'The Butler'

    Oprah Winfrey isn't just a talk-show host. Her acting has been critically acclaimed. She received a Screen Actors Guild nomination for playing the wife of White House butler Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker) in "The Butler" in 2013. (Anne Marie Fox / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. YOU get a thank you, and YOU get a thank you...

    Winfrey acknowledges fans during a star-studded taping of "Surprise Oprah! A Farewell Spectacular," in Chicago on Tuesday, May 17, 2011. Her famed talk show went off the air after 25 years as Winfrey moves to her OWN network. (Kiichiro Sato / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Honor from Hizzoner

    In one of his last acts before leaving office, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley presents Winfrey with a sign after a street was named in her honor outside her Harpo Studios in Chicago on Wednesday, May 11, 2011. (M. Spencer Green / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Presidential visitors

    President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are pictured with Winfrey during a taping of one of her last shows in Chicago on Wednesday, April 27, 2011. Winfrey memorably cried tears of joy when Obama was elected. (Charles Dharapak / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. On her OWN

    Winfrey, chairman of OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, announces the new original programming for the channel's Jan. 1, 2011 launch to members of the advertising and media communities on Thursday, April 8, 2010 in New York. (Mary Altaffer / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Going Gaga

    Oprah Winfrey wears sunglasses and holds a hair bow given to her by Lady Gaga, left, after a live broadcast of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" on Friday, Jan. 15, 2010 in Chicago. (George Burns / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Backed by Oprah

    Executive producers Tyler Perry, right, and Oprah Winfrey walk the red carpet at the AFI Fest 2009 gala screening of their new film "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire" in Hollywood on Nov. 1, 2009. (Fred Prouser / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Chicago's failed Olympic bid

    First lady Michelle Obama, left, sits next to Winfrey and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, right, at the opening ceremonies of the 121st International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session and XIII Olympic Congress at the Copenhagen Opera House on Oct. 1, 2009, in Copenhagen. Despite the star power backing its bid to host the 2016 Olympics, Chicago was eliminated during the first round. (Charles Dharapak / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. The queen of daytime

    Winfrey, right, performs with the Black Eyed Peas' Fergie, center, and will.i.am, left, in Chicago on Sept. 8, 2009, while taping an episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show." The episode was taped on a three-block stretch of Michigan Avenue near the Chicago River to celebrate the show's 24th season. (Kiichiro Sato / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Honorary degree

    Winfrey smiles at Duke president Richard Brodhead after receiving her honorary degree from Duke University during a graduation ceremony in Durham, N.C., on May 10, 2009. Her godson, William Bumpus, son of her well-known friend, Gayle King, was among the graduates. (John Rottet / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A powerful woman

    Oprah Winfrey arrives at the 17th Annual Women In Entertainment Power 100 Breakfast at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles on Dec. 5, 2008. Winfrey was No. 1 on the list, which is compiled by the Hollywood Reporter. (Katy Winn / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Book promoter

    Winfrey holds a copy of her September 2008 pick for her Book Club -- David Wroblewski's "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle." Since launching her Book Club in 1996, Winfrey has helped authors from Toni Morrison to Joyce Carol Oates sell millions of books. (George Burns / Harper Productions via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Helping to celebrate

    Winfrey arrives for the birthday dinner party of former South African President Nelson Mandela at Hyde Park in London on June 25, 2008. (Dylan Martinez / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. The 'O' endorsement

    In another first for the talk-show maven, Winfrey endorsed Sen. Barack Obama for president in 2007. She hosted a fundraiser for Obama, accompanied by his wife Michelle, on Sept. 8, 2007, at her home in Montecito, Calif. That weekend, Winfrey made four joint appearances with Obama at various campaign stops. (Harpo Productions via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. For the girls

    On Jan. 2, 2007, Winfrey, center, cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony of her Leadership Academy for Girls School in South Africa. "The school will teach girls to be the best human beings they can ever be; it will train them to become decision-makers and leaders; it will be a model school for the rest of the world," Winfrey wrote on the academy's Web site. (Denis Farrell / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Oprah, Dave ... Dave, Oprah

    David Letterman walks hand-in-hand with Winfrey from the Ed Sullivan Theater to the premiere of her new musical "The Color Purple" at the nearby Broadway Theater after Winfrey made an appearance on "The Late Show with David Letterman" on Dec. 1, 2005, in New York. For years Letterman had a running joke about how Oprah didn't like him. (Jason Decrow / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Red-carpet ready

    Winfrey, right, and actress Halle Berry strike a pose for the cameras on the red carpet at the 77th Academy Awards in Los Angeles on Feb. 25, 2005. (Chris Pizzello / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. In front of, and behind, the camera

    Winfrey brought her own camcorder to the 30th Annual People's Choice Awards on Jan. 11, 2004, in Pasadena, Calif. (Carlo Allegri / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Powerful friends

    Winfrey joined U2 frontman and philantrophist Bono at a gala dinner before the "Give 1 Minute to AIDS" concert for The Nelson Mandela Foundation's 46664 campaign held at Greenpoint Stadium on Nov. 27, 2003, in Cape Town, South Africa. (Dave Benett / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Hall of Famer

    Winfrey was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Magazine Hall of Fame on Nov. 11, 2002. She attended the gala at the Marriott Marquis in New York City. (Evan Agostini / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Charitable giving

    Winfrey stands in front of hundreds of children in Durban, South Africa, on Dec. 8, 2002. Tens of thousands of children received gifts of food, clothing, athletic shoes, school supplies, books and toys as part of Winfrey's philanthropic trip for her charity, the Oprah Winfrey Foundation. (Benny Gool / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Cruise control

    Actor Tom Cruise appeared on Winfrey's show on Dec. 6, 2001, to talk about his film "Vanilla Sky" and his break-up with then-wife Nicole Kidman. Cruise returned to her show in 2005 to talk about his new love, actress Katie Holmes. Cruise gained cultural infamy for jumping on Winfrey's couch in an enthusiastic display of his love for Holmes. (George Burns / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. W to W

    Then-Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush gives a kiss to Winfrey after appearing on her show on Sept. 19, 2000. (Tannen Maury / AFP-Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Magazine boss

    Winfrey is joined by Barbara Walters, left, and Diana Ross, right, at the launch party for her magazine on April 17, 2000, at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York. (Evan Agostini / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Movie star

    Winfrey co-starred with Danny Glover in the movie "Beloved," director Jonathan Demme's adaption of Toni Morrison's novel. (Touchstone Pictures via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. What's the beef?

    Winfrey arrives at the federal courthouse in Amarillo, Texas, in January 1998. Cattlemen filed a lawsuit against her for saying on her talk show that the U.S. beef industry could be at risk of spreading mad cow disease. The trial forced Winfrey to move her show to Amarillo for several episodes. She won that trial, but the cattlemen filed another suit a few weeks later. A U.S. District judge ultimately dismissed the case in 2002. (Akhtar Hussein / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Running for the cause

    Winfrey ran in the Revlon Run/Walk for Women 5K to raise money for women's cancer organizations in 2007. She has been open about battles with weight and her love-hate relationship with exercise. (Mirek Towski / Time & Life Pictures via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Furry escort

    Winfrey brought one of her furry friends with her to Ebony Magazine's "Celebrate the Dream: 50 Years of Ebony Magazine" event on Nov. 17, 1996. (Ron Wolfson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Golden girl, and her man

    Longtime boyfriend Stedman Graham has been by Winfrey's side at many awards shows, including the Daytime Emmy Awards. In 1987, her first year of eligibilty, she claimed three Emmys, including one for outstanding host and outstanding talk program. (Robin Platzer / Time & Life Pictures via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Hot topics

    In 1994, Winfrey consoled a distraught mourner during a segment of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" taped at Buffalo United Methodist Church, in Union, S.C., following the revelation that fellow townswoman Susan Smith drowned her sons, Alex and Michael, when she let her car roll into a local lake. The case drew nationwide interest. (Taro Yamasaki / Time & Life Pictures via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Weight issues

    On Nov. 16, 1988, Winfrey rolled out a toy wagon containing 68 pounds of fat on her show to illustrate how much weight she had lost. She credited her 68-pound weight loss to a liquid diet and exercise. Her goal was to fit into a size 10 pair of blue jeans for the first time. However, she quickly gained the weight back and has see-sawed ever since. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Famous friend

    Winfrey strikes a pose with famed composer and producer Quincy Jones. (Ron Galella / WireImage) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Oscar nominee

    Winfrey co-starred with Whoopi Goldberg, second from right, and Rae Dawn Chong, right, in "The Color Purple" in 1985. She received an Academy Award nomination for her role as Sofia. She would later name her production company Harpo, another character in the film, which is also Oprah spelled backwards. (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Early promise

    An 18-year-old Winfrey received the Miss WVOL award from the Nashville, Tenn., radio station in 1972. Winfrey rose quickly from local radio and TV reporter to become host of her own nationally syndicated talk show. (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
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