Special Feature: Oprah’s Top Dozen Watercooler Moments

by | November 20, 2009 at 12:36 PM | TV News

Oprah Winfrey (Mark Mainz/Getty Images)

Oprah Winfrey (Mark Mainz/Getty Images)

The Big O herself, Oprah Winfrey, hit us with a double dose of big news this week: First, her interview with former VP candidate Sarah Palin netted her show its biggest ratings in two years.  And then today, she formally announced that after 25 years on the air, her long-running daytime talk show will end in 2011.

Which reminds us: Even after all these years, Oprah still gets people talking like nobody else. Book sales, belief systems, beef production: Daytime TV’s benevolent overlord has influenced it all, and got us talking about all of it.  So let’s take a look back at the Oprah moments that had us buzzing over the years—the most shocking, the most compelling, the absolute watercooliest of them all.

12. Alaskan Men (1989)

After hearing about the surplus of single men in Alaska, Oprah flew in the state’s most eligible bachelors to do a little matchmaking… and women actually swarmed the airport! If that sounds crazy and desperate, keep in mind, this was pre-Match.com; ladies had to grab love wherever they could find it.

(Oh, and if you’re thinking, “Hey’d, that concept would make a great dating reality show”? Anyone who suffered through Fox’s Looking for Love: Bachelorettes in Alaska can tell you: No, it wouldn’t.)

11. Oprah and Gayle’s Big Adventure (2006)

Oprah’s cross-country road trip with best friend Gayle showed us a side of Oprah we don’t often see: unguarded, occasionally short-tempered, refreshingly human.

But the best moment came when they stopped to refuel—and Oprah revealed she hadn’t pumped her own gas since 1983! How is that even possible? She wasn’t always filthy rich. Are the gas stations full-service only in Illinois, or what? Puzzling to this day.

10. Dr. Oz and the S-Shaped Poop (2005)

Now he’s got a fancy-schmancy show all his own, but Oprah introduced us to Dr. Oz back in 2002, and we’ll never forget his cheery discussions of repulsive bodily functions.

As the good doc told us in a memorable segment called “Everybody Poops,” our bowel movements should ideally be S-shaped. And with that, millions of housewives took a long, hard look inside their toilets for the first time.

9. “My Vajayjay Is Painin’!” (2007)

Yes, that cutesy-catchy term for female genitalia was coined by Grey’s Anatomy—but we know who gave it the ol’ Oprah Bump. Oprah was strapped into a harness on a spa weekend at the Miraval resort, and the harness must’ve caused some discomfort—leading to the immortal phrasing above.

This moment gets extra points for being repeated endlessly on E!’s clip show The Soup. It even inspired a recurring Soup segment entitled “Oprah’s Vajayjay.” That’s the power of Oprah: Even her body parts inspire us

8. Michael Jackson (1993)

This was one for the ages: The King of Pop sat down with The Big O for his first televised interview in 14 years, and delivered her biggest ratings ever.

The interview itself was a bit underwhelming: Oprah seems a little nervous and starstruck throughout, and she keeps the topics mostly superficial. But as this month’s Whitney Houston interview proved, when a celebrity wants to tell their side of the story, Oprah’s still the first one they call.

7. Meet Dr. Phil (1998)

I know, it’s hard to remember a time when Dr. Phil wasn’t annoying. But when the good-ol’-boy Texas psychologist debuted on Oprah way back in 1998, his homespun “aw shucks”-isms hadn’t yet worn out their welcome. And with Oprah by his side having her “a-ha moments,” he fit in better than a coonhound in a henhouse. Or something.

6. Mad Cow (1996)

If nothing else, this whole debacle showed the sheer breadth of Oprah’s influence: Even her offhand remarks are grounds for litigation. After a guest detailed how cows were being ground up and fed to other cows, Oprah exclaimed that “it has just stopped me cold from eating another burger!”

Immediately, beef prices plummeted—and cattle ranchers sued Oprah, accusing her of starting a panic and ruining their livelihood. Oprah won in court, but the lesson remained: Don’t mess with Oprah… because she has the power to destroy us all.

5. The Secret (2007)

Universal truth? New Age hooey? Maybe a little of both. But Oprah has never shied away from exploring the spiritual side of life, and her enthusiasm for the book/movie The Secret (with its “Law of Attraction”) created an international phenomenon. Don’t act like you didn’t buy it.

4. “You Get A Car! Everybody Gets a Car!“ (2004)

Oprah loves to give stuff away, and no giveaway was bigger (or louder) than the 19th season premiere, where she gave each and every audience member (276 in all) a brand-new Pontiac G6. Many tears were shed—then, and when the tax bill came.

3. Oprah Busts James Frey Into A Million Little Pieces (2006)

Oprah’s Book Club has the Midas Touch: It can turn a bargain-bin book into a bestseller overnight. But it bears repeating: Do not toy with the all-powerful Oprah. Or you will face her wrath.

Author James Frey learned that the hard way when Oprah confronted him about the truth behind his “non-fiction” memoir, A Million Little Pieces. Frey went from literary sensation to social pariah in a single one-hour taping, and Oprah’s stern evisceration of him made for must-see TV. Oprah’s not mad, James; she’s just disappointed.

2. A Wagon Full of Fat (1988)

One of the most enduring images of Oprah’s long run is her wheeling out a wagon with 67 pounds of fat in it, representing the weight she lost on the crash diet OptiFast. (Hey, any weight-loss solution with “fast” in the name must be healthy and well-balanced, right?)

Of course, she gained all the weight back (and lost it, and gained it, and lost it…). And now she lists that famous episode as one of her biggest regrets. But hey, even the Queen of All Media can wheel out a mistake once in a while.

1. Tom Cruise vs. The Couch (2005)

Oh, this one is #1 with a bullet—the couch-jump heard ‘round the world.

Sure, we all remember the maniacal laughing, the awkward wrestling with Oprah, the rampant overuse of the word “amazing.” But the creepiest part of all? When Tom wants to bring Katie out, she refuses, and he actually goes back and forces her onstage—to wild applause! Yay, physical coercion!

Did we miss any of your favorite Oprah moments? Let us hear it in the comments.