When Oprah announced that the 25th season of her wildly celebrated talk show would be its last, millions of rabid viewers prayed it was just a ploy to sell more tickets -- never mind that tickets to her show are free -- and that in actuality it, like Celine Dion's heart, would go on and on.
And now in a classic case of Be Careful What You Wish For, it's feeling painfully like her show might actually never, ever end. Only a few weeks after the season premiere, the show seems to be going on and on and on and on and on and on -- and on and on -- ad infinitum, ad nauseam. Not since Ross and Rachel kissed in the rain, went on a break, broke up, had a baby while continuing to date other people and then finally ended up together after 10 long years, has a television relationship felt quite so tortured and draining.
There was Paul Simon's surprise appearance on this season's premiere, crooning quietly to Oprah about moving on, her suitcase packed with the memories she's holding, asking if she'd be home when she arrived. Oprah solemnly blotted the tears from her cheeks while nodding at the singing/songwriting legend during the performance, all the while snot dribbled from America's collective nose. It was the ultimate Boo-Hoo Moment -- otherwise known as the Aha! Moment's morose cousin.
The shows in the days since have been stuffed with similarly maudlin moments, like the one with the single mom whose loans were paid off by Oprah as a reward for figuratively breaking her back to make ends meet for her family, the one with the woman who literally lost her limbs due to a flesh-eating bacteria who gets to select any house she wants on Oprah's dime so she can be mortgage-free, and the one with the sisters in West Virginia who confronted the bigots who assailed their now-deceased HIV-infected brother during an Oprah special on AIDS in 1987. The 25th season has been like watching Schindler's List every weekday afternoon for an hour.
Oprah also wrenched guts everywhere while talking to Wynonna Judd about leaving her husband following accusations that he molested a child, and how the country superstar dropped an astonishing 60 pounds after a lifelong struggle with obesity -- although more astonishing was Wynonna telling Oprah she'd lost the weight by "walking in the wilderness and screaming at God," and Oprah failed to ask if that was a euphemism for gastric bypass surgery.
Weepfest '10 continues later this month, when Oprah hosts the entire cast of The Sound of Music for their first reunion in 45 years. A "Love Story" show is in the works with Ryan O'Neal and Ali MacGraw to commemorate the classic five hanky's 40th anniversary. And rumors are rampant that she's also trying to schedule the first Beatles' performance in 44 years -- with all four members live in her studio. Elvis Presley is said to be mulling a cameo.
Of course Schindler's List is an Oscar-winning masterpiece, and watching a heavy Oprah -- no pun intended -- is still more enjoyable than a ridiculously frivolous Judge Judy, who has been beating Oprah in the ratings lately. But the one profound topic, perhaps of most interest to diehard Oprah fans, will likely never be discussed on her program.
It came to light late last month in an interview that Discovery Communications, which co-owns the soon-to-be-launched OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, forced Oprah to relinquish her eponymous show.
"I wasn't pleased," she told Fortune magazine.
For the woman with an exponentially larger stature than virtually every guest who has ever appeared on her program -- which says a lot, don't you think, Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, Bono, et al.? -- who has repeatedly been named the most powerful figure in television, and who is among the most influential people in the world to be bullied into giving up a platform so socially and culturally monumental against her will is puzzling.
Perhaps in her 25th season, she's finding the power in surrendering, as she has so often prodded her guests to do, as CNNmoney.com suggested. Or just maybe she's wading through all the intense stuff now, the "spinach," as the CEO of OWN calls it, because it won't be allowed on her network.
"Television is television, and you still need a strong element of entertainment," explained OWN's CEO.
Either way, Oprah devotees should enjoy the medicine they're being fed this season, because apparently she'll soon be embarking on a network-mandated diet of fluff and air -- not to be confused with Oxygen; we already know how that turned out for her.
And just maybe the end is closer than we think.