The Oprah Winfrey Show: Australian specials

By David Knox on January 20, 2011 / Filed Under Programming, Reviews 31

Episode 1 of Oprah‘s Australian specials did the trick.

It sold the country in a one hour travelogue with high priestess Oprah converting her flock. She even led them in prayer at one point.

Winfrey is queen of optimism and her show is built around fulfilling dreams. That visiting Australia happens to be one of hers has become a television event millions can share.

She landed in Cairns in her private jet (despite giving the impression she first landed in Sydney) and sang “Hello Australia” to the tune of “Hello Dolly” as the doors opened. She was already gushing with excitement.

With best pal Gayle King, it was off to Hamilton Island to meet some koalas. Yes, she called them koala bears (a surprise, given most other references and facts were pretty accurate). As we have all heard before, the two masupials began mating almost on cue.

“We saw koala penii,” squealed King.

Then it was a helicopter joyride over the Great Barrier Reef, and one unique coral formation branded “the heart of the Great Barrier Reef.” Now Oprah was squealing. Together with her tour guide narration and stirring music, how could this not be speaking to her US audience?

On Whitehaven Beach she threw a shrimp on the barbie, greeted 92 surprised members of her audience, ate a feast cooked by Curtis Stone and listened to the Ten Tenors singing “I Still Call Australia Home.” Hearing the reactions of her invited guests was equally persuasive. One woman from Detroit had never stepped foot into an ocean (seriously). Cameras capturing her in these crystal blue waters bordered on moving television.

Later some audience members snorkelled the Reef with Kin. One man even  scuba dived to a viewing platorm where he held up underwater signs “This Is My First Scuba Dive” and “Will You Marry Me?” to a surprised girlfriend -completely staged for the cameras, and completely effective in making dreams come true. The elated girl said yes as the dripping diver then produced a ring.

Other audience members travelled around Tasmania (“‘Tassie’ as the Aussies call it,” explained Winfrey), again accompanied by King for coastal scenery, gourmet lunches and Tasmanian devils.

Meanwhile Winfrey was off to Uluru, the special’s most poignant moment.

With another dozen believers in tow they met Aborigonal elders, watched an indigenous performance, and visited the rock. No other nation has a rock at the heart of its country, she explained, likening the visit to a religious experience. Sure enough as a post card sunset fell across the outback, Winfrey asked her group -and the cameraman- to close their eyes and give thanks “to whoever your God may be.” Many probably gave praise to her.

Next stop Melbourne. “You may call it Mel-born, but to Aussies it’s Melben.” Hmmm, she has been told. Pity she got the PM’s name so wrong. ‘Gillard’ became ‘Gi-lard’ as the PM’s drone tried to talk up our attributes. Security and screaming fans followed off camera. From her chat with the PM, Winfrey concluded that our country “has a confidence.”

At Federation Square it was Australia’s turn to bow at the altar.

Thousands screamed, our “top pop star” Jessica Mauboy performed, as did our “top vocal act” Human Nature (ok fair call). New Victorian premier Ted Ballieu didn’t even get his mug on the telly. But Winfrey roared her appreciation to a spellbound crowd, insisting she had never had such a welcome,it w “In. My.Life!” It was classic Winfrey. In a “Thankyou Springfield” moment  there was a quick check of the running sheet before she mentioned the Federation Square location in her speech. I was impressed the info was there for quick reference. Her team has immaculate attention to detail.

Oprah even made reference to the floods while at Fed Square. She must really be God to have forseen that before the Queensland floods actually happened (yeah ok it was December floods but do you think the Yanks will know?).

There was also a brief video tribute to the Queensland floods. Don’t book those on your itinerary, America.

The net effect of the hour was a full-hearted video love letter to Australia. Winfrey’s enthusiasm is infectious. I swear I got goosebumps a couple of times seeing our country so handsomely packaged. And there are still three more episodes to come?

I might have to buy me a Qantas ticket and check this Australia place out.

The Oprah Winfrey Show: Australian specials continue 7:30pm Thursday, Friday and Sunday on TEN.

31 Comments »

  1. Alf February 2, 2011 at 6:51 pm -

    Please Oprah, never come back ! You are not welcome.

  2. Donald January 21, 2011 at 3:52 am -

    Karebear, I believe at a minimum it shall be on again when the regular daytime run catches up to this point.

  3. john January 21, 2011 at 3:34 am -

    Thanks for your reply @TomK.
    I made no judgement of Anna Bligh & personally i believe she did an amazing job during such a difficult time.
    In regards to my so called hatred of the ALP,well that just isn’t so.My issue is with the 2 persons mentioned.2 people who have shown absolutely no responsibilty in regards to those that died during the pink batts scandal,for the schools scandal etc etc.
    They have both shown no real commintment for what is really going on in this country today & have just made things all the more difficult for you & me.
    Shall i mention the so called hospitals overhall???
    I am entitled to my opinion as is everyone,so please don’t tell me i cannot have one just because you are not of the same thinking.
    @byranical…whatever.

  4. Allie January 20, 2011 at 5:56 pm -

    @Trix, I’m crazy about “The Fatal Shore” as well. Although harrowing, every Australian should read it, it is just remarkable.

  5. Winthorp January 20, 2011 at 5:54 pm -

    @TomK
    Americans call it Mel-bourne, not melbin, just like they refer to that Matt Damon movie as the Bourne Identity, not the Bin identity….

    tho the english language is a funny beast….

  6. jakevin.. January 20, 2011 at 5:32 pm -

    Any news on ratings?

  7. Trix January 20, 2011 at 3:28 pm -

    @Allie, you’ve just named my favourite book of all time :)

  8. Karebear January 20, 2011 at 3:27 pm -

    I forgot it was on. Will there be an encore???

  9. tomothy January 20, 2011 at 2:34 pm -

    Just watched the first episode, and it was very good. Oprah herself got somewhat annoying with her constant need to talk and shout all the time. The panoramic views were brilliant, and were like those you seen in a Discovery channel doco… would have looked even better in HD!! But lets not get into that discussion again. The PVR is set to record the next 3 episodes.

  10. Jenni January 20, 2011 at 2:16 pm -

    I also watched it and quite enjoyed it and would gladly profess that I’m a huge Oprah fan. It did feel a little bit like a great big long advertisement for Australia though. Dont get me wrong, I loved it but it was also a bit of an advertorial. Best ad that Tourism Australia has ever put together – and what a huge audience. Bring on the Americans I say

  11. Pepe January 20, 2011 at 1:51 pm -

    Agree it was good for australia in general… Being in new York ATM I have seen tonights episode… Some of that is really cringeworthy… Especially when she just ‘pops in’ to the Melbourne family for their ‘standard monthy party’…..

  12. TomK January 20, 2011 at 12:39 pm -

    I was so glad she tried to correct the pronunciation of Melbourne. Its the one thing that really ticks me off about Americans and i try to teach them when ever i am over there or when i have friends come and visit me.
    It was a great ad for Australia, one i’m sure that will have benefits for years (if not decades) to come.

    @john- congratulations on your hatred for the ALP, we’re all so proud of you. You can tthink what you like of Gillard, Rudd and even Anna Bligh, but to suggest that she was anything less than genuine and sincere during the last month simply shows how one-sided and ignorant you are being, completely ruining any chance of your thoughts and opinions being accepted by anyone other than someone who is completely like minded.

  13. Allie January 20, 2011 at 12:22 pm -

    A definite 10/10, no, hang on, make that 20/10 – absolutely fantastic, flawlessly edited and put together and jawdroppingly gorgeous footage. I have never seen the Reef or Uluru look so utterly gorgeous. Years ago, I remember Robert Hughes describing his novel “The Fatal Shore” as his love letter to his country of birth, Australia. I think Ms Winfrey just outdid him, albeit in a different medium. The money spent on this series of specials was well worth it. This is exactly the kind of thing that stays in peoples’ minds for years, and excerpts of it will kick around on YouTube forever. Congratulations to everybody involved in bringing this production together.

  14. jakevin.. January 20, 2011 at 12:05 pm -

    I am definitely not an Oprah viewer but I thought this first installment was fantastic – never have I seen Australia highlighted internationally so accurately and beautifully. The scenery was incredible, the enthusiasm from the visiting Americans and Winfrey was great and I think it will finally teach Americans something about our nation – about time I say.

  15. Karlos January 20, 2011 at 11:45 am -

    For anyone who is *still* complaining about the $4m price tag to get Oprah here, keep this in mind: The QLD Flood Relief Appeal jumped by $20 million in one day – the day Oprah’s show went to air in the US.

    I don’t think you can argue with the persuasive powers this woman has!

    Not to mention that our country looked simply stunning in this show. It really made me realise that there is so much that this country has to offer that we all take for granted.

    Well done Oprah! Looking forward to the rest of the shows.

  16. Chris January 20, 2011 at 11:27 am -

    I think the flock and follower analogy is spot on. She says jump, America says “How high?”. But not before squealing ecstatically for 10 minutes.

    I also took issue with Jessica Mauboy being described as our top pop star but it wasn’t that big a deal so whatever, I’ll be at McCafe.

  17. Victor January 20, 2011 at 11:26 am -

    Fantastic show and I was in Fed Square for Oprah’s speech!!!!

  18. Ashton January 20, 2011 at 10:55 am -

    @Johnson – She did mention the floods at Federation Square. The QLD floods have been ongoing since November 2010-Present

  19. byranical January 20, 2011 at 9:55 am -

    @Johnson, I was at Fed Square that day and she did mention the floods. Nobody really knew what she was talking about as they weren’t like they have been the past couple of weeks

    @John, keep the political commentary to yourself, not interested in reading your views on Rudd or Gillard

  20. darren January 20, 2011 at 9:37 am -

    I think it was a very good ad. I disagree that every word coming from her mouth was from the heart. She was paid to say how great everything is the same as she was paid to thank Chevrolet for the vehicles. It’s what she does. She does it well.

  21. Pommy January 20, 2011 at 9:18 am -

    Bit much with the ‘flock’ and ‘follower’ comments….

  22. camo January 20, 2011 at 8:56 am -

    good review David…i watched it as well and if anyone can do TV in a way that motivate some….this Lady can… i also got the odd goosebump….and i dont get to see daytime tv…

  23. francis January 20, 2011 at 8:48 am -

    loved it!!

    if this doesn’t get the american’s down to australia then i don’t know what will.

  24. Johnson January 20, 2011 at 8:25 am -

    It was a great episode. As for Oprah’s speech at Federation Square, I am sure the part relating to the floods was dubbed because I heard most of the original speech on radio that day (if you search the net you may even be able to find a transcript).

  25. steven guy January 20, 2011 at 8:07 am -

    The floods had begun, Oprah arrived the clouds cleared where ever she went. The coverage around the world of the floods has been front page on the net versions of the papers. As well as local papers I read them from the US, UK & Canada

  26. steven guy January 20, 2011 at 8:04 am -

    Really good show and if i was over seas watching them I would start planning to come here, my next few holidays are going to be local !

  27. Russell January 20, 2011 at 7:45 am -

    Yeah it made me wanna come to Australia….and I already live here ;)

  28. Peter A January 20, 2011 at 7:32 am -

    Firstly let me say I have never watched an Oprah episode in my life. I did however watch last night and loved every minute of it. I found Oprah very typical American with everything big and load. The scenery was fantastic. I don’t think Australia has ever looked so good. It made me very proud of this country and the people in it. It will be interesting to see what American think of it all. Was it worth all that money to bring them out here? Time will tell, but at a time when QLD and Australia need to increase tourism, it really couldn’t come at a better time. This defiantly has been the highlight of what otherwise has been a horror summer TV schedule. Well done Ten for airing it so quickly.

  29. Andrew January 20, 2011 at 6:54 am -

    Well done Oprah,should be a big boost to our Aussie tourism market.

  30. john January 20, 2011 at 5:46 am -

    Oprah Winfrey will ultimately do more for this country (tourism) than Gillard will do in her entire career.She like the moron before her are not for the people in any shape or form.
    Sure Oprah is over the top but that’s what the Americans do best,OTT! However you can see every word that comes out of her mouth is from the heart,something the current government is devoid of.
    Was it Rudd controlling the strings on this puppet when she stood behind Anna Bligh recently.How embarrassing.

  31. ryan January 20, 2011 at 5:06 am -

    I would say 4.5 stars at the least david, what did you not like?
    On another note. Great episode, it actually makes me wanna go around and visit places in aus! i can’t wait for the rest

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