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Oprah's Fully Loaded Giveaway

By Lisa de Moraes
Tuesday, September 14, 2004; Page C01

Oprah Winfrey made the wildest dreams of General Motors come true yesterday when she devoted the entire first half of her syndicated talk show's highly anticipated 19th-season debut to GM's new Pontiac G6 sedan.

Her audience didn't mind sitting through a half-hour car commercial -- all 276 of them received their very own G6s because, Oprah announced, this would be her show's Wildest Dreams Come True season. Pontiac donated the cars in exchange for the big fat on-air plug, worth millions of dollars on the syndicated hit series, which last season enjoyed more viewers than in its previous season, and younger ones to boot. National ad rates on "Oprah" are higher than for some prime-time shows, according to trade publication Broadcasting & Cable; last season a 30-second spot on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" averaged about $75,000, Nielsen estimated.

Driving them delirious: Winfrey and some of the 276 audience members who yesterday received new Pontiac G6s, courtesy of show sponsor GM. (Bob Davis -- Harpo Productions Via Reuters)

"It's our 19th season!" Oprah roared as she opened the program, high-fiving members of the studio audience, who had been carefully screened to make sure that each was:

a) in need of a car and preferably with some heart-tugging tale;

b) reasonably good looking and well-dressed, and preferably young;

c) lacking the gene that causes one to become embarrassed when seen bawling, screaming hysterically and hugging automobiles on national TV.

"I'm so excited about today's season premiere my heart is palpitating!" Oprah shouted as she touched her hand to the heart area of her trim red Jackie O. suit, shaking her beautiful wearing-them-longer- this-season tresses.

"I'm going to try not to faint, but just in case I do, we have real emergency medical people standing by!" Oprah enthused, as the camera cut to two beefy paramedic types nearby. The audience woo-hooed enthusiastically and clapped.

"Because this is so exciting, you may have heard, sometime during the next 60 minutes we're going to do something big, really big. That's why we have emergency -- you're certified, you've got your little heart things," Oprah said, changing the subject abruptly and turning to Paramedic Men.

"Come, test my heart -- right now!"

"Oooohhh!" audience yelled, clapping, as one Paramedic Man put his "little heart thing" to her chest, gave her a thumbs up and told her, "It's perfect."

Of course it is, stupid. She's Oprah, the Good Witch of the North.

But Oprah is also something of a tease, so at first she called onstage just 11 of the most photogenic/pathetically storied members of her audience to award them their cars.

"But I have one car left . . . and someone in this audience still has a chance to go home with a new, fully loaded G6. G6! G6!" Oprah bellowed, accounting for three of the 15 times she mentioned the car by name during the Product Placement to End All Product Placements.

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