The show has been highly influential, and many of its topics have penetrated into the American pop-cultural consciousness. Winfrey has used the show as an educational platform, featuring book clubs, interviews, self-improvement segments, and philanthropic forays into world events. The show does not attempt to profit off the products it endorses; it has had no licensing agreement with retailers when products were promoted, nor has the show made any money from endorsing books for its book club.
Oprah is one of the longest-running daytime television tabloid talk shows in history. The show received 47 Daytime Emmy Awards before Winfrey chose to stop submitting it for consideration in 2000.
In 2002, TV Guide ranked it at #49 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time. In 2013, they ranked it as the 19th greatest TV show of all time.
Mehmet Oz, the head of cardiac surgery at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in NYC and better known to millions of Winfrey's viewers as "Dr. Oz", regularly appeared on Tuesdays during the 20082009 season. In 2009, Dr. Oz debuted The Dr. Oz Show in first-run syndication. The series is co-produced by Harpo Productions and Sony Pictures Television. Dr. Oz has been criticized as promoting pseudo-science, and was the 2009 winner of the Pigasus Award.
In March 2010, Winfrey began a campaign to stop drivers from talking or texting on their cell phone in their vehicles while driving. This campaign was regularly noted near the beginning or at the end of episodes.
On November 10, 1986, during a show about sexual abuse, Winfrey revealed that she was raped by a relative when she was nine years old. Since this episode, Winfrey has used the show as a platform to help catch child predators, raise awareness, and give victims a voice.
Liberace appeared in the first season of the show on December 25, 1986. He performed a Christmas medley; Winfrey said it was "the most beautiful I've ever heard". Six weeks later he died of cardiac arrest due to congestive heart failure brought on by subacute encephalopathy. The episode was Liberace's final televised appearance.
The show had only been on air for just six months when, in 1987, Winfrey traveled to Forsyth County, Georgia, a community in which, for 75 years, no black person had lived. Winfrey brought attention to racial tensions in the area. The show was set up as a town hall meeting where residents expressed their divisive opinions on the matter. The meeting was becoming heated when one woman stood up and said:
I just hate to think that someone is going to get hurt before the people get some sense about them and talk about this and get it like it's supposed to be...black and white together in Forsyth County. There's no other way.
The "Diet Dreams Come True" episode from November 15, 1988 has become one of the most talked-about moments in the history of show. After years of struggling to lose weight, Winfrey had finally succeeded in doing so. In July of that year, she had started the Optifast diet while weighing 212 pounds. By Fall, she weighed 145 pounds. To commemorate achieving her weight loss goals, Winfrey wheeled out a wagon full of fat to represent the 67 pounds she had lost on the diet. She showed off her slim figure in a pair of size 10 Calvin Klein jeans. However, after returning to real food she quickly gained back much of the weight she had lost. Winfrey now refers to that moment as her "ego in a pom pom salute."
While doing a show centered on women drug users in 1995, Winfrey opened up about her personal history with drug abuse:
I relate to your story so much. In my twenties, I have done this drug [cocaine]. I know exactly what you're talking about. It is my life's great big secret. It is such a secret because I realize that the public person that I have become, if the story were ever revealed, the tabloids would exploit it and what a big issue it would be. But I was involved with a man in my twenties who introduced me to [cocaine].... I always felt that the drug itself was not the problem, but that I was addicted to the man. I've often said over the years in my attempt to come out and say it, I have said many times, 'I did things in my twenties I was ashamed of,' 'I've done things I've felt guilty about.' And that is my life's great secret that's been held over my head. ... I understand the shame and I understand the guilt, I understand the secrecy, I understand all that.
In 1996, Winfrey spoke with seven of the Little Rock Nine and three white former classmates who tormented the group on their first day of high school in 1957 as well as a student who had befriended them. Winfrey was grateful to have the remaining members of the Little Rock Nine on her show because she credits her success to those who have contributed to the Civil Rights Movement which paved the way for people like herself.
Comedian Ellen DeGeneres came out publicly as a lesbian during her appearance on the show in 1997 after appearing on a Time magazine cover next to the headline "Yep, I'm gay." At the time, DeGeneres was the star of her own sitcom, ABC's Ellen. The episode brought Winfrey the most hate mail she had ever received.
Clemantine Wamariya and her sister Claire appeared on the show in 2006 when Wamariya was selected as one of the winners of an essay contest held by Winfrey. It was revealed that the siblings had not seen their parents in 12 years after fleeing Rwanda during the 1994 genocide. Winfrey surprised the sisters by flying their family to Chicago for one of the most emotional reunions on the show.
In 2007, the Marines of the Second Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion Alpha Company and their naval corpsman, made the show their first stop after a seven-month tour on the front lines in Iraq. Winfrey welcomed the Marines with a big homecoming celebration where they were reunited with their loved ones on the show.
On November 11, 2009, Charla Nash, who was mauled by her friend and employer Sandra Herold's pet chimpanzee Travis, came to the show to speak out for the first time about the terrifying attack that took place just nine months prior. Nash wears a veil daily because the attack left devastating injuries to her face and she "doesn't want to scare people." During the show, she agreed to lift her veil for the first time in public.
While taping the show's 24th-season premiere on September 8, 2009, the entire audience of 21,000 people, gathered on Chicago's Magnificent Mile, surprised Winfrey by breaking out into a synchronized dance set to The Black Eyed Peas' performance of "I Gotta Feeling" (with new lyrics congratulating Winfrey on her show's longevity). The dance had been choreographed and rehearsed for weeks by a core group of dancers, who taught it to the entire crowd earlier in the day.
During the farewell season, two hundred men who were molested came forward as part of a two-day event in 2010 to take a stand against sexual abuse. The men were joined by director and producer Tyler Perry, who had also experienced sexual abuse. Winfrey hoped that the episode would help survivors suffering in silence release the shame.
On January 24, 2011, Winfrey revealed that just before Thanksgiving 2010 she had discovered she has a half-sister. Winfrey decided to share the news on her show because she knew the story would eventually get out and wanted to be the first to address the matter.