"The Oprah Winfrey Show" made its national debut 30 years ago Wednesday, creating viral talk show moments well before the Internet – and long before DeGeneres became a mono-named daytime host
Her success came at a time when shows like Geraldo Rivera’s “trash TV”dominated the ratings. But this was something different. This was compassionate, empathetic and ultimately uplifting. A columnist at Newsday once wrote, “[She’s] wittier, more genuine, and far better attuned to her audience, if not the world,” when comparing her to Phil Donahue – her biggest competition.
These qualities became defining for her as the show grew, and was an intentional move in order for her to create the type of show she wanted. In a 2001 profile of her growing success in Time magazine, Oprah said “[There] is a commonality in human experience … If it’s happened to one person, it has happened to thousands of others. Our shows are hour-long life lessons.” Her celebration of the singular experience as a way to connect to everyone became a defining experience of the show. Oprah’s success led on to shows such as The Ricki Lake Show and The Montel Williams Show, which helped define daytime TV in the 90s.