Oprah Winfrey Show ends quarter-century run

Oprah Winfrey offered up a teary farewell on the final episode of her influential talk show in Chicago on Tuesday, before an audience packed with famous faces and regular fans.
Oprah Winfrey acknowledges fans during a star-studded double-taping of Surprise Oprah! A Farewell Spectacular in Chicago on May 17. The Oprah Winfrey Show ends its quarter-century run on Wednesday. (Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press)

Oprah Winfrey offered up a teary farewell on the final episode of her influential talk show in Chicago on Tuesday, before an audience packed with both famous faces and regular fans.

The episode that wraps her quarter-century run as a talk show diva saw Winfrey, with tears in her eyes, speak simply about what she's learned from her viewers and what she hopes they've learned from her, according to fans leaving Tuesday's taping.

"You think about how many billions of people around the world watch her and want to be here," said Sarah Cranley, a 32-year-old Chicago fan who scored tickets by submitting her name through the normal ticketing process and whose mother travelled from Pittsburgh for the taping.

"What are the odds?"

The series finale, which airs on Wednesday, was bare bones in comparison to the glitzy, celebrity-packed, arena-sized farewell episode that Winfrey filmed at Chicago's United Center last week.

As Winfrey herself promised, the entire final season has been over-the-top, from a premiere where she announced she was flying the entire audience abroad for an Australia adventure to landing high-profile interviews with U.S. President Barack Obama (whom she supported during his run for office) and the reclusive children of late pop icon Michael Jackson.

Winfrey is famously a product of the American Dream. Despite being born into poverty in rural Mississippi, she worked her way into broadcast journalism and, in 1984, became a talk show host in Chicago. A year later and No. 1 in the market, the program was rebranded The Oprah Winfrey Show. Over time, Winfrey's powerful influence grew to encompass a much larger media empire that includes producing TV shows, satellite radio broadcasting and O, The Oprah Magazine.

Many books, movies, artists and products she endorsed instantly became bestsellers, with the phenomenon dubbed the "Oprah effect." Still, she hasn't escaped controversy over the years, including allegations of abuse at the much-hyped, namesake school for girls she opened in South Africa.

Winfrey announced in November 2009 that she would end her top-rated, syndicated show in order to focus on a new project: the launch of her own, eponymous specialty TV network, which features shows by well-known figures such as Shania Twain and Sarah Ferguson.

Though the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) has struggled with ratings since its Jan. 1 launch, Winfrey has said she plans to focus all her energy on the fledgling initiative after her syndicated show wraps.

With files from The Associated Press