'Oprah Winfrey Show' part of broadcast history

May 25, 2011 (CHICAGO)

After the celebration over the past week, the final episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show was more subdued. But it ranks among the famous finales that the public has watched on TV over the years.

"This last hour is really about me saying 'thank you'. It is my love letter to you," Oprah said.

With no guests, just Oprah on the stage, her last show was her story.

"Everyday I stood here, I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be," she said.

"She has said viewed show best as a classroom, this was the final lesson, this was the last lecture," said Phil Rosenthal, Chicago Tribune media columnist.

Rosenthal likens the experience to watching the curtain come down on other past moments in broadcast history.

"I saw Johnny Carson's last Tonight Show, famous Randy Pausch's last lecture, talking about audience at the end of show, being the love of her life, saw the reference to the end of cheers," said Rosenthal.

But in this case, it's not the farewell of show characters or an entertainer. It's someone who's built a relationship with her audience.

"You let me into your homes to talk with you, everyday. This is what you allowed me to do," Oprah said.

"Phil Donahue revolutionized by going into the audience showing viewers part of world they didn't know existed. Oprah was the audience," said Rosenthal.

The world saw part of Chicago and in that sense the city lost something Wednesday.

"What Chicago is losing is a daily presence in people's lives…They would say oh Oprah, Chicago," said Rosenthal. "Oprah Winfrey made people feel less alone, whatever was going on in their lives, they were not alone. There was a community for them."

"Thank you for being such a sweet inspiration for me as I have tried to be for you," Oprah said.

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