One year later: Oprah Winfrey without 'Oprah' still struggling on OWN
Oprah Winfrey ended her long-running, über-successful daytime talk show exactly one year ago today, ostensibly to devote her efforts to her fledgling eponymous cable network, OWN.
In case you hadn't heard, OWN has gotten mixed reviews, both in terms of content and management, with some saying that Winfrey was wrong — all wrong! — to pull the plug on "Oprah" rather than move it to cable and ensure that millions of people would follow.
We're of the opinion that Winfrey's true fans aren't fickle. In fact, they want the same thing they always have — Oprah! But they're getting less of her now that they don't have "Oprah" to tune into every day.
Obviously, the end of "Oprah" 12 months ago signaled the end of an era. But did it also bring about the downfall of an empire?
May 25, 2011: Following a two-day, star-studded sendoff at Chicago's United Center, the last episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" attracts 16.4 million viewers — an awesome number at any time of day or night, let alone midafternoon.
June 24, 2011: The world continues to revere Winfrey as she's awarded an honorary doctorate — not her first, of course — at University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa.
August 2011: Winfrey comes in at No. 14 on Forbes' list of the 100 most powerful women in the world. Better than the Queen of England, but not as good as Lady Gaga.
Aug. 1, 2011: The owner of Own Your Power Communications sued Winfrey and her Harpo Studios over their "Own Your Life" branding to ensure that she would be the only one encouraging folks to own their power.
Oct. 10, 2011: Winfrey appears on the first episode of "The Rosie Show," Rosie O'Donnell's daily prime-time show that's meant to inject some much-needed vim and vigor in OWN's flagging lineup.
Nov. 13, 2011: The producer and Oscar-nominated star of "The Color Purple" is given an honorary Academy Award — along with James Earl Jones and makeup artist Dick Smith — for her contribution to film at the Governors Awards.
Jan. 1, 2012: "Oprah's Next Chapter," a weekly prime-time interview show (actually featuring Oprah!) premieres and is immediately the network's most successful program. Only Season 25: "Oprah Behind the Scenes," premiered to higher numbers.
Jan. 14, 2012: The scandal-plagued Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in Johannesburg sees its first class graduate.
Jan. 19: On a trip to India, Winfrey's bodyguards brawl with local reporters while she's visiting the sacred Hindu town of Uttar Pradesh and are briefly detained by police. They're able to leave after issuing an apology to the media.
Jan. 27: There's speculation that Winfrey is the godmother of Beyoncé and Jay-Z's baby daughter, Blue Ivy. Alas, she isn't. Maybe if she had just stuck with daytime...
Feb. 14: Winfrey apologizes after encouraging people to tune into OWN, especially if they're Nielsen families. You know, to help her ratings! " 'Desperate' not ever a part of my vocab," she tweeted later. "Just making a request, since I can't watch myself. Choice is yours." (Well, if she can't even watch, why should we have to?)
Feb. 29: Winfrey joins Lady Gaga at Harvard University for a discussion in honor of the launch of the pop powerhouse's Born This Way Foundation.
March 11: She's still got it! Winfrey lands the first interview with Bobbi Kristina Brown following mom Whitney Houston's death.
March 16: OWN pulls the plug on "The Rosie Show" after the ratings skidded into rock-bottom territory. "I wish the show was able to attract more viewers — but it did not," O'Donnell said. "We sort of started off the wrong way. We were kind of trying to do a little bit of what we had done 15 years ago, and you can't do it."
April 2: Winfrey admits to BFF Gayle King on CBS' "Early Show" (you know, so people can see) that running her own network has not been easy. "If I were writing a book about it, I could call the book 101 Mistakes," she says.
May 9: In a reminder of what was, "The Oprah Winfrey Show" scores three Daytime Emmy Awards nominations in technical categories (the host took herself out of the running years ago after consecutive wins). Perhaps as a portent of good things to come, OWN's Super Soul Sunday was nominated for Outstanding Special Class Series.
May 16: Jennifer Lopez ousts Winfrey as Forbes' most powerful celebrity in the world. What lowly depths does Winfrey plummet to? No. 2. The horror!
So, it's been an up-and-down year for the former queen of daytime, who still would have been at the top if she hadn't deposed herself.
But never count Winfrey out. She's smartly building up her presence on OWN, her involvement still imparts gravitas to any event and it's a presidential-election year — try saying "Oprah's Obama fundraiser" five times fast.