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.