Pop Rocks: A World Without Oprah

The 25th and final season of The Oprah Winfrey Show kicked off yesterday with a John Travolta dance number, an appearance by Paul Simon (of "and Garfunkel" fame, not the deceased U.S. Senator), and an announcement that Oprah would take the 300 studio audience members in attendance on an eight-day trip to Australia in December (and, presumably, would also bring them back). It's the beginning of the end for the TV show praised (or blamed) for enabling America's self-help addiction and helping to change television from a medium for entertainment to a conduit for teary confessionals and self-serving celebrity mea culpas.

Now that the damage has been done we're left to ask: how will the departure of the most powerful woman in America -- a media titan responsible for unleashing Rachael Ray, Dr. Phil, and a bouncing Tom Cruise upon the rest of humanity -- affect an already politically and economically uncertain world?

Wonder no longer, for here at the Pop Rocks Think Tank for Media Change Management and Paradigm Shiftery, I devoted the countless minutes between the end of last night's Cowboys-Redskins game and the season premiere of The Venture Bros. to examining the fallout from Oprah's departure. The results may shock and arouse you.

1. Chicago Must Find Another Tourist Draw

The Harpo Studios building, where the show is taped, is visited by millions of OGs (Oprah Groupies) each year. This provides a sizeable financial infusion for a city that's starting to weather significant economic hardships. The same folks who line up for photos and to pick up copies of The Poisonwood Bible are unlikely to hop the Green Line and brave the neighborhood around U.S. Cellular Field to take in a White Sox game, or take the storied Fugitive movie tour (with stops at the Pullman Pub and the Illinois Bell Building).

What could possibly be the city's salvation in its time of need? Four words: Jersey Shore: Lake Michigan.

2. No One Will Ever. Read. Again.

Getting your book selected by Oprah's Book Club can mean a boost of almost a million readers. For example, when Oprah picked Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, it's print run increased by 800,000. Without her wise guidance, hapless potential readers will soon be lost in a morass of inferior Amazon reviews, podcasts, and giant racks of "bestsellers" looming over them as they walk through the nearest Barnes & Noble. Overwhelmed, they'll eventually resign themselves to picking up whatever everyone else on the airplane is reading, which is good news for John Grisham and Tom Clancy.

3. America Will Plunge Into Pestilence and Despair

Harvard-educated cardiac surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz aside, where will the faithful turn to for advice on raising children if noted immunologist/former host of Singled Out and Oprah protégé Jenny McCarthy isn't around to make sure we aren't vaccinating our kids? How will we ever achieve spiritual and economic enlightenment if we aren't constantly getting New Age bilge like The Secret shoved down our throats, or told our dead loved ones are waiting for us on The Other Side?

Luckily, McCarthy is getting a show on Oprah's new network, which brings me to...

4. We Have Assumed Control (Of The Airwaves)

Soon you'll be getting Oprah-approved content on your televisiual devices 24 hours a day (minus the late night ShamWow commercials, that is):

In an unprecedented deal, Oprah Winfrey and Discovery Communications announced plans today to create "OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network." The new multi-platform media venture will be designed to entertain, inform and inspire people to live their best lives. OWN will debut in 2009 in more than 70 million homes, on what is currently the Discovery Health Channel. The venture will also include the award-winning digital platform, Oprah.com. [...] OWN's mission is to create multiple platforms for women, men and their families with a purpose and a passion: to celebrate life, to inspire and entertain, empowering viewers around the world to live their best lives, and by doing so, lift the lives of those around them in ever-widening circles.

"Live their best lives," eh? Maybe Joel Osteen can get some air time.

Delays pushed the network's start date back. Meaning you'll have to wait until next year to get OWNed. And just in case there was any uncertainty about who's issuing the marching orders:

In addition to providing her talent, and personal commitment, Winfrey will have full editorial control over the joint venture and will be responsible for OWN's programming, branding and creative vision.

5. American TV Will Return To An Age of Civility And Decorum

Oprah would like you to forget she was one of the earliest purveyors of tabloid style shenanigans before shifting her show's focus to "spirituality" and diatribes against the beef industry. With her show finally out of the way, we can return to those stately days of yesteryear, when gentlemen and ladies like Dick Van Dyke and Barbara Billingsley graced the screen with their quiet refinement. I mean, just look at what's waiting in the wings:

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