Oprah Winfrey’s farewell to daytime TV is shaping up as such a big event that it has outgrown her own Chicago studio.
As a result, she’ll tape two of her final shows – the third- and second-to-last episodes of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” – at a much larger venue, Chicago’s United Center, the sports and concert arena that’s home to the Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks.
What’s the difference between the United Center and Oprah’s own Harpo Studios across town? More than 23,000 seats – which is what Oprah and her producers are likely to require to accommodate the potential audience for the blockbuster final shows they’re planning. United holds about 23,500 people for concerts. Oprah’s Harpo studio: 276.
And what will these star-studded episodes include? Oprah herself doesn’t even know, according to an announcement coming out of Harpo on Thursday.
According to Harpo, a two-hour show featuring “some of the biggest names in movies, music and television in a one-time-only gathering” will be taped at the United Center on May 17. Titled “Surprise Oprah! A Farewell Spectacular,” the show will air in two parts on Monday, May 23, and Tuesday, May 24.
The United Center shows will air just before Oprah’s final show, airing Wednesday, May 25. The last one figures to be a lot more intimate than the stadium-sized “Spectacular” since it will be filmed in the studio Oprah has called home for 25 years.
Harpo reps won’t say who’s slated to appear on the show, since that’s the whole point of a show they’ve titled “Surprise Oprah!” However, the parade of special guests is already under way, with Barack and Michelle Obama on the show this coming Monday, May 2 (it was just taped on Wednesday).
Oprah’s producers acknowledge that they’re taking a chance surprising their boss, since they know better than anybody that Oprah doesn’t exactly love surprises. “As most of our viewers know, being surprised is not one of Oprah’s favorite things,” said Sheri Salata, executive producer of “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” “In the spirit of our farewell season, she is making a rare exception and we intend to make the most of that opportunity. It will be something to see!” the producer promised in a prepared statement.
Want tickets to the “Spectacular” taping? All the information you need is right here on Oprah.com. They’ll probably go quickly, so please note: They become available tomorrow, April 29.
In fact, tickets for all of Oprah’s remaining shows are highly coveted – so much so that a potential juror in a high-profile court case was excused from service because she has tickets to one of the shows and would have missed her one and only opportunity to see Oprah in person if she were selected for the jury.
Who’s on trial? It’s none other than the former governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, who said he was glad the woman was excused and will be able to attend “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in its final weeks.