More than a year after announcing that she was pulling the plug, the last episode of Oprah Winfrey’s talk show finally aired last week. But not before we endured months of stories, TV specials and commentary about Oprah.

Make no mistake — I admire Oprah’s ability to become one of the most successful people in the world despite a horrific childhood, the example she set for not only African-American women but for women of all races, and her philanthropic efforts that ranged from support for victims of HIV/AIDS and child abuse to battling poverty and illiteracy in Africa. For all that, I give her a standing ovation with a capital “O.”

But from a purely pop culture standpoint, there are some things for which she has to answer. To whit:

Making it fashionable to shorten your name repeatedly, going from “Oprah Winfrey” to “Oprah” and then “O.” I blame “Diddy” on you, Oprah.

Dr. Phil.

Ushering in the tabloid talk show format and making it possible for Geraldo Rivera, Ricki Lake, Jenny Jones, Jerry Springer, et al to dumb down television with trash-talking cheating hos and their idiot trash-talking cheating boyfriends. (Although it was kind of sweet to see Geraldo get his nose broken with a chair WWF-style.)

Coverting talk shows from guest-driven vehicles to a me-me-me — look at me! — vanity show. If Oprah ever let a guest finish a sentence before interjecting her own opinion or let the camera focus on a musician without constantly panning to herself clapping and singing along, I never saw it.

Rachael Ray.

Launching her own magazine, thus encouraging everyone from Rosie O’Donnell to Gene Simmons to do the same.

Dr. Oz.

Being named “the greatest woman in American history” in 2005 as part of a public poll. In your face, Harriet Tubman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Susan B. Anthony and Rosa Parks!

Making books instant best-sellers just by mentioning them, thus giving us dreck like “The Bridges of Madison County.”

Rachael Ray again.

What’s Oprah going to do now? She says she’s going to concentrate on building her new OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, taking a more behind-the-scenes role.

But if you think Oprah’s going to be content with working behind the scenes, you’re more delusional than Stedman Graham thinking Oprah will finally marry him. Before you know it, Oprah will be back in front of the camera, weeping and interrupting and recommending something.

Oprah’s bear-hugging grip on popular culture ain’t over yet. Soon, she’ll have placed a copyright on the letter “O” too.

And people will love her for it.

Deputy Managing Editor Rod Harmon may be contacted at 791-6450 or at:

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