When Oprah Winfrey announced Friday that she would end production of her nationally syndicated television talk show after next season, millions of unemployed Americans pretended they did not care.
“Fine, yeah, I might have come across this program and lost the remote right after and the buttons on the TV didn’t work so I just had to watch. I guess it wasn’t that bad.”
Ukles and millions of other daytime TV viewers have relied on Oprah, The Price is Right, and 33 different judge shows to occupy the long, cold hours between wakeup time and dinner from the McDonalds dollar menu. But Oprah was more than just mindless entertainment.
“I can only take so much Judge Alex, Christina’s Court, Divorce Court, The People’s Court, Judge Mathis, and Judge Hatchett,” Ukles said. “I just need a little bit of substance in my life, and quite frankly, Oprah provides that in abundance.”
Ukles and others contend that the TV landscape will never be the same once the daytime talk queen is gone. The show, watched by 45 million viewers each week in the U.S. and broadcast in 145 countries, has been a weekday TV staple for nearly 25 years.
Dabbing his eyes with a handkerchief, Ukles shared his fears.
“I haven’t been able to sleep since the announcement. When I do nod off, I have this recurring dream where I’m chasing Oprah down a hall, and I just can’t catch her. Eventually she jumps out of a window and parachutes into the sunset,” he said. “I awaken, my face drenched in tears. I don’t know what I will do without her.”
Psychologist Susan Gonzalez said that under normal circumstances the behavior of TV addicts would be troublesome. But, this is different – this is Oprah.
“I see patients all the time who suffer from addiction to various forms of media including television,” she said. “But while other forms of addiction interfere with our daily lives, consistently watching Oprah only serves to enhance our minds and bodies. For the sake of humanity, I pray that Oprah will not vanish from the public arena once her show concludes.”
Media experts speculate that Winfrey may start new show on her selflessly self-titled cable network, the Oprah Winfrey Network. Or perhaps she will focus more attention to taking photos of herself for the covers of her magazine, O: The Oprah Magazine. There may even be more time for her web portal, Oprah.com.
Whatever the case, fans like Ukles have hope that the Big O will play some part in their lives.
“If she’s not on TV, I’ll find a way to see her. Maybe visit her at home, drop in for tea or dinner. I already have her address and pass by her place every now and then to peer in her windows and see what she’s up to. Lovely curtains.”
A bit obsessive? No, not to this Oprah fan.
“I love her. She makes up my insides and guts and stuff. Damn it, Operah, why? WHY?” Ukles sobbed.
And so, too, sobs the world.