Holiday Specials

Making Oprah


Making Oprah

Oprah Winfrey tells the behind-the-scenes story of her iconic TV talk show, along with producers, staffers, TV executives, and ratings rival Phil Donahue. This three-part series from WBEZ Chicago chronicles the show's scrappy roots in Chicago, its rise to daytime dominance, and the powerful sway Winfrey came to have in American life.

It's easy to look back at The Oprah Winfrey Show and assume its vast success and cultural impact was all preordained. But Making Oprah reveals the show's improbable rise through exclusive conversations with Winfrey and the mostly female team that produced her show.

Making Oprah is produced by WBEZ Chicago, hosted by Jenn White, and distributed by APM.

This unique radio package consists of three, hour-long episodes, each featuring approximately 40 minutes of interviews and narration, and approximately 15 minutes of archival audio. Preview audio and promo spots are available now on ContentDepot (see link below).

Please note: There is a language advisory for Episode Two only; details below.

Episode One:No Strategy, No Plan, No Formula
It was 30 years ago this fall that Oprah Winfrey first said "hellooooo" to a national audience. By time it ended in 2011, her daily talk show was aired in 145 countries and watched by more than 40 million viewers a week in the U.S. alone. Today's daytime hosts like Ellen and Dr. Oz? They now average only about a tenth of that. If Oprah mentioned a book title, it became a best-seller. She landed the interviews that no one else could get. Her message of spirituality and empowerment influenced millions.

In the first of a three-part series, Oprah and former producers talk with WBEZ's Jenn White about the early, scrappy days of The Oprah Winfrey Show. Phil Donahue reflects on Oprah's entry into the daytime talk landscape that he once dominated. Plus, this episode revisits milestones from the 1980s, like the show's national debut, and some mixed feelings over the show's highest-rated episode ever.

Episode Two:. Skinheads and Scented Candles
In the second episode of Making Oprah, we explore how The Oprah Winfrey Show elevated itself out of the heap of trash TV and into a show that intentionally embraced spirituality and positivity. The early years of Oprah's show often relied on sensational, tabloidy topics – cheating husbands, sexy clothes, and murderers. It was not yet the 'Live Your Best Life' Oprah we would come to know and love. "It was during those shows where I just thought, 'What are we doing?' " Oprah tells WBEZ's Jenn White. "This is a platform that is speaking to people, and what are we saying?" As The Oprah Winfrey Show reached maturity — or at least, its college years — the program conducted the on-air experiments that would allow this talk show to become something more than a talk show.

LANGUAGE ADVISORY: The "N" word is used multiple times throughout this episode. It has been bleeped out, but some listeners may still find the content and context disturbing.

Episode Three: You Get a Car!
In the show's final decade, Oprah and her team staged massive spectacles of increasing grandiosity, from the infamous car giveaway to a 21,000-person flash mob that shut down part of Chicago. "It had become increasingly more difficult to top what you'd done the year before," Oprah told WBEZ's Jenn White. "I mean, to the point where we literally sat in a room saying 'What about outer space?' " The final installment this series finds Oprah living her life at the top, pushing the boundaries of what could be done with the world's most powerful talk show, and why it all had to end after 25 years.


Jenn White

Jenn White is an anchor and host at WBEZ Chicago. She's a native of Detroit and graduate of the University of Michigan. Jenn has worked in public media since 1999. She was previously local host of All Things Considered at Michigan Radio and hosted the nationally distributed public radio documentary "Finding Our Bootstraps: Americans Deal With Recession." She has also served as Executive Producer and host of the public television programs "Out of the Box" and "Edible Legacies."




57:00 with two breaks inside the show (A seg, B seg, C seg)

Breaks at approximately :19 and :39. Varies with episode.

ContentDepot File Transfer

Uploaded to ContentDepot on December 12, 2016

Content Depot link:


Available December 12, 2016 through February 28, 2017Ongoing, with multiple airings permitted.

broadcast rights

Affiliate stations may carry this program multiple times before February 28, 2017. The program must be carried in its entirety. No excerpting is permitted. Simulcast streaming rights are available for this program. Prior to carrying this program, stations must contact their American Public Media Station Relations Representative.

on-air promos

Available in ContentDepot on December 12, 2016.