The final episode of Oprah Winfrey’s syndicated talk show averaged 89.57 million fewer viewers than had the finale of “M*A*S*H.”
Oprah’s camp ran ads touting her May 25 series finale in which her swan-song episode was likened to, among other iconic TV moments, the series finale of the long-running CBS anti-war dramedy – a finale which remains the most watched TV broadcast in history, in terms of percentage of the country’s population tuning in.
So, because Oprah’s camp brought it up:
On Wednesday, May 25, “The Oprah Winfrey Show” finale averaged 16.4 million viewers, Nielsen said Wednesday.
The “M*A*S*H” finale, on February 28, 1983, averaged 105.97 million viewers.
Oprah’s ad promoting her final episode as queen of daytime talk TV, also invoked Johnny Carson’s final night hosting NBC’s “Tonight Show.”
Carson’s final night on “Tonight Show,” May 22, 1992, averaged 41.4 million viewers.
Oprah’s finale came in 25 million viewers short of that.
Now that we’ve hopefully cleared that up:
More people also watched the final two nights of dancing on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” and the final two nights of singing on Fox’s “American Idol” during the final week of the 2010-11 TV season than watched the three-day-long laying to rest of Oprah Winfrey’s syndicated daytime talk show that same week.
On the other hand, getting 16.4 million people to watch you, smack dab in the middle of a work day, as you stand on stage for an hour, jewels dripping from your wrist and ears, and lecture them about the lessons that have been the anchor of your life, is no small accomplishment.
And what of the Oprah show’s two orgies of celebrity excess leading up to the finale, collectively been called, “Surprise Oprah! A Farewell Spectacular”?
Well, the Monday version, in which Beyonce and her all-girl dance troupe did a Girl Power bump-and-grind while dressed as graduating co-ed strippers, attracted average audiences of 12.3 million.
A slightly larger crowd of 13 million watched the second day of “Surprise Oprah!” in which Michael Jordan offered Oprah a job if she needed one, Simon Cowell patronizingly pronounced Oprah a good kisser, and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s wife Maria Shriver put “love,” “support” and “the truth” at the top of her Important Things list.
While these numbers are much bigger than the Oprah show’s May average of 8.2 million viewers, they are not the biggest crowds TV shows gathered that week.
The final performance episode and the finale of “Dancing with the Stars” both clocked larger audiences, as did the final performance night and the finale of “American Idol.”
On the bright side, those final three “The Oprah Winfrey Show” episodes rank No. 5,6 and 7 for the week -- beating everything in primetime that wasn’t “Idol” or “Dancing” related, including, for instance, the much ballyhooed season finale of “Glee” in which the glee club FINALLY went to nationals.