Oprah's the Big Winner in Super Bowl Ad

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    "Behind the Scenes: Oprah's 25th Season" sounds exciting.

    Why was Oprah throwing up her hands during that Super Bowl ad?

    Her O-Mightyness appeared Sunday in an instant Super Bowl classic, sitting on a couch between Dave Letterman and Jay Leno as the two late night hosts sullenly bickered. As the two men sniped, Winfrey threw up her hands in mock frustration.

    What an appopriate place to be. As a Chicagoan, you have to enjoy the symbolism: an argument between East and West Coast late nighterweights being mediated by a midwestener. Oprah Winfrey: breadbasket broker.

    The 15-second spot was a masterstroke. A sequel to a 2007 ad featuring just Letterman and Oprah, this year's version was Letterman's idea, and it reminded viewers, following NBC's very public Jay vs. Conan debacle, about CBS' humor bona fides.

    Leno: "How May Times Are You Going to Retire?"

    [CHI] Leno: "How May Times Are You Going to Retire?"
    Leno says he doesn't believe Oprah will end her show after its 25th season.

    Jay Leno Compares Himself to Oprah

    [CHI] Jay Leno Compares Himself to Oprah
    The late night comedian says he and Oprah will go down together.

    The ad was just as helpful for Leno. After weeks of squabbling with Conan, his junior for 16 years, the ad repositions the late night squabble as between him and a host of near-equal seniority. It's almost as if the spot was saying "Conan who?"

    That's a position NBC entertainment execs can get behind -- they've already scrubbed Conan's pasty visage from the walls of 30 Rock, and removed his show from the Web.

    Judging from the web chatter, though, most of America's wondering why Conan wasn't in the spot -- implying that most viewers think of him now as Leno's and Letterman's equal. Good for Conan, bad for NBC. (Too bad Letterman's suggestion to include Conan didn't pan out -- Conan could've walked in at the end and deadpanned "keep cool mah babies.")

    As for Oprah, her brand doesn't need burnishing. Of the three talk show hosts in the spot, she's proven herself the most savvy. Unlike Dave (goofy philanderer) and Jay (corporate lacky), Oprah's ending her show amicably and transitioning to OWN by launching a new, behind-the-Winfrey-scenes reality program.

    The Super Bowl spot demonstrates her prowess: while the coastal titans take pot shots, Oprah profits from being the middle-woman: to wit, her recent interview with Leno, in which The Chin said he felt "sucker-punched" by jokes Jimmy Kimmel made at his expense.

    Kimmel shot back on his own program, Leno once again withered under attacks from a supposedly lesser host, and Oprah stayed in the headlines.

    Hence Oprah throwing her hands up during the Super Bowl spot.

    As if to say alright fellas, if you're going to force me, sheesh. I'll take the ratings. All the way to the bank.