The Oprah Winfrey Show has been a staple on TV since the first episode aired in September 1986. Oprah Winfrey, however, has been a staple in Chicago for longer than that.
Winfrey came to Chicago from Baltimore in 1983 to host WLS-TV’s morning show, AM Chicago, which at the time was in last place in the ratings. With Oprah's brassy, lovable attitude and in-depth interview abilities based on empathy, the show quickly skyrocketed to the first place, surpassing Phil Donahue’s syndicated talk show, Donahue, which was then the highest rated talk show in Chicago.
Once AM Chicago reached its height of popularity in Chicago, King World approached Oprah about taking the show into syndication. Oprah was hesitant of the offer at first, but with a little support from Roger Ebert, she took King World's offer and The Oprah Winfrey Show took flight September 8, 1986.
King World expanded the show to an hour and moved the broadcast to a national level. Oprah quickly became the number one daytime talk show in America, doubling the viewership of Donahue in nationwide ratings.
Oprah later would branch out on her own, launching Harpo Productions on Chicago's west side. The production company includes Harpo Films, Harpo Radio and Harpo Studios where she films The Oprah Winfrey Show.
Around the mid-90's, Oprah started to change the subject matter of her show. Originally a tabloid talk show format, Oprah decided to concentrate more on social issues, self-improvement, spirituality and charity.
She began interviewing more celebrities, political figures and other guests involved in these issues or having their own problems. Liberace made his final appearance on Oprah's show before dying six weeks later. Writer Truddi Chase, a sexual-abuse victim with multiple personality disorder, had Oprah in tears as she faced the story of her own sexual abuse.
In 1993, Oprah was able to get a rare prime-time 90-minute interview with Michael Jackson. When the episode aired, it was later billed as the fourth most-watched show in U.S. history with 62 million viewers.
Her career that started with radio and television would later branch to film, Broadway, book and magazine publishing, satellite radio and, with the culmination of The Oprah Winfrey Show, ownership of her own television cable network.
The little girl from Mississippi is a media powerhouse.