Oprah’s Last Episode: Like a Last Lecture That Isn’t Final at All


Say what you will, but we think the last episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show made perfect sense. As R. Kelly says in the seminal classic “Ignition pt. 2”: “After the show, it’s the after-party, and after the party, it’s the hotel lobby.” Well, this episode was certainly the hotel lobby. It wasn’t as fun as the show (the 4,561 days that Oprah filmed The Oprah Winfrey Show), or the after-party (the celebrity-stuffed two-day special shown this week). This episode was like that part of the evening in which nothing particularly interesting is going on but it’s still part of a great night, so you enjoy it all the same. Oprah pontificated to her audience dressed in a plain belted pink dress and ran through an hour of advice, clips, memories, and “thank yous.” While she frequently gave credit and salutations to her guests, she left out one.

In October 2007, Randy Pausch appeared on Oprah and gave an abridged version of his famous “Last Lecture.” Today, Oprah called herself the “teacher in the world’s biggest classroom” and saw fit to give her own last lecture of sorts — but without a shoutout to Pausch. She touched on every key message of her “How to Live the Oprah Life” plan: “the importance of having a calling, the belief that nobody is responsible for your life but yourself, withholding judgment on others, the importance of God, and forming attachments to people.”

Key difference between Pausch and Oprah? Pausch made that lecture because he was facing imminent death (he passed away of pancreatic cancer in 2008). Oprah, on the other hand, is leaving her one-hour show and moving to her eponymous network of which she will be the center of attention 24/7.

One of the last things that Oprah did was give her new email address ( — “easy to remember”) to her audience so they can stay in touch following her move to the faraway land of cable. She said, “The audience has been a safe haven for me.” They’ve also been the recipients of $23.8 million dollars of favorite things gifts and support for what people dub “the Oprah Effect” (what Oprah says to buy, the people will buy).

So, maybe there was a reason that Oprah made sure that the last episode contained “no guests, makeovers, or surprises.” She wanted to drill it into her followers why they were watching in the first place, and why they should come to OWN and watch her enter her twilight years — it’s because she’s Oprah, goddammit!

Oprah’s greatest skill is arguably her ability to have a one-way conversation with millions of people that feels strangely inclusive for the listener. This was a way for Oprah to have one last chance to show off her skills on ABC, and she did it masterfully.