Washington Post

10 years after the end of her iconic show, Oprah Winfrey still best embodies TV today

A meme, a mogul, a mental health advocate - Oprah Winfrey was all three in 2021, as well as must-see TV.

Titled "Adele One Night Only," Oprah's special was a combination concert and interview with the British singer-songwriter Adele. Foto: Joe Pugliese/Harpo Productions.

Since the end of her groundbreaking daytime series, "The Oprah Winfrey Show," in 2011, the former talk-show host and now sui generis personality has co-starred in high-profile films like "Selma," "The Butler" and "A Wrinkle in Time." But the last 12 months saw a mini-resurgence of Winfrey's presence in the medium that she made her own.

Back in March, Winfrey hosted "Oprah With Meghan and Harry" (CBS), the interview of the year, in which her audience-surrogate reactions became briefly ubiquitous on social media as a meme. She and Prince Harry followed up two months later with "The Me You Can't See" (Apple TV Plus), a five-part docuseries about mental health that went on to make its own headlines about the royal's struggles with anxiety, panic attacks and alcohol dependence. Winfrey surely hoped to close out 2021 publicly with November's "Adele One Night Only" (CBS), a combination concert and interview that bolstered both women's images as relatable gajillionaires. But later that month, an announcement from Dr. Oz - who began his TV career on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," where he was anointed "America's Doctor" - declaring his Senate candidacy in Pennsylvania unearthed lingering questions about the less-than-savory aspects of her long career, such as her lending her platform and perceived trustworthiness to camera-hungry quacks. (Of the Republican physician's pivot politics, Winfrey, who endorsed Barack Obama in 2008, offered a tepid response on Tuesday: "One of the great things about our democracy is that every citizen can decide to run for public office.")..

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