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Today's the third-to-last-ever episode of Oprah and, obviously, we're going to be liveblogging it here. Because we're Oprah junkies. Here we go.
4:00 p.m.: From Chicago's United Center, the announcer says that Oprah has no idea—the most spectacular surprise ever! With the help of some of the biggest stars on the planet! The ultimate viewers, surprise after magnificent surprise! This is part one of two. We're so excited.
Pan the theater. Oprah's 4,559th appearance on the show. Oprah looks fantastic in a purple bejeweled-collar L'Wren Scott dress. There are a bazillion people in the stadium.
4:01: Tom Hanks shows up, walks towards Oprah. Oprah shouts, "Oh yeah! Oh yeah! Let the games begin."
4:02: Funny banter onstage. Tom asks Oprah to take it all in for a moment. "Today, you are surrounded by nothing but love," he says, "Your studio just wasn't big enough to hold it all, so here we are. 25 years, girl, 25 years have come and gone so fast, and every single person here in the United Center in Chicago just want to say thank you for what the Oprah Winfrey show has meant in our lives. More than 40 million people have tuned in every week—and that means billions of viewers over generations—and you've said it over and over again, Oprah it's all about them."
Vignettes playing on the screen, with testimonial from viewers. Cue the tears.
"It was the only anchor I could hold onto when I was drowning in my sea of pain," says a woman whose daughter died.
4:04: Tom tells Oprah: "There's no surprise more magical than the surprise of being loved, and that's what this night is all about."
"I'm open to taking it in," Oprah says. She is notorious for hating surprises.
4:06: Tom Cruise walks down the steps behind Oprah. He's wearing all black, has some crazy 80s hair going on. Tom Hanks walks off stage.
4:07: Tom Cruise talking about his first time on her show in 1988, how he looked like he was 10 years old. Oprah talks about her funny hairstyle. He's been on the show 12 times, "each time, I knew, coming to Chicago, I was going to see a loving friend," Cruise says. "You shared your own lessons with us... for over a quarter of a century you've quoted Glenda the Good Witch: 'You always had the power.'"
4:08: Now there's a child singing in black and white with red shoes. We thought for a second there was something wrong with our television.
4:10: Now the child is in color. Child clicks her heels three times, Josh Groban walks onstage singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." They just panned out and showed the stage is a huge O. Ooh, it's a jazz-y rendition of Over the Rainbow.
4:11: Patti Labelle walks on stage, Oprah's face is priceless. They hug, this is very sweet. Labelle is singing Over the Rainbow too. Josh Groban walks off stage. Now Labelle is standing in the middle of the O and she is amaaaaaazing. She's wearing a mandarin collar black pantsuit with a green and blue stripe.
4:12: Now Josh Groban and Patti Labelle are dueting the finale of Over the Rainbow. Oprah and Tom Cruise are on their feet. Hurrah!
4:17: And we're back from commercial break with Tom Hanks and Oprah onstage. Hanks introduces viewer, mother of four—Oh My God it's MADONNA!!!
Madonna looks amazing.
"It's no secret millions of people are inspired by Oprah, I am one of those people," Madona says. "She's a self-made woman who's been at the top of her game for over 25 years, and she is still kicking ass. She fights for things she believes in even if it makes her unpopular and a wealth of compassion. I have learned so much from her. We both share a passion for educating girls in Africa. Oprah's commitment to building her academy in South Africa... has helped me to understand it is possible... that I should stay the course and keep going no matter how much resistance I encounter. I vow to be more courageous and to never give up, never. I'm here to say thank you from all those women, and most of all, thank you for inspiring me. So, after 25 years, what will Oprah's show's legacy be, just look at this audience."
Now Madonna is talking through stories about viewers who've been inspired by Oprah—from all over the world! "This is the legacy of the Oprah Winfrey show," Madonna says.
Madonna and Oprah hug. Seriously, Madonna looks unbelievable.
4:24: Dakota Fanning and tons of kids on stage. They're calling them "Oprah show babies."
"Your voice has been the soundtrack of our lives," Fanning says. Now the mic is being passed around the group of kids and they're all saying what they learned from Oprah. A 13 year old just said she lost 20 pounds because of Oprah. Another girl is talking about how her mom died when she was 14 and they used to watch Oprah together. Another girl is talking about how she survived being abused by watching Oprah. Oprah is near tears in the audience.
"Because of the Oprah Winfrey show, we believe that girls can run the world," Fanning says.
4:26: OMG it's Beyonce in a tuxedo! "Because of you, women everywhere have graduated to a new level of understanding of what we ar, of who we are, and most importantly, who we can be," Beyonce says. "Oprah! We can run the world!"
It's a live performance of Beyonce's new single, "Run the World."
4:30: Now Oprah's on stage hugging Beyonce and Dakota Fanning. Pan out to show stadium aerial. Cut to Dove sponsorship message.
4:35: And we're back from commercial break. "Trying to stay in body," Oprah tells Hanks. Next surprise coming up! "It's estimated that a certain Oprah's book club helps sell 30 million books," Hanks says. "In the name of all that you have done in the name of reading and literacy...." the audience has brought along some of their favorite children's books—lots of them are holding up Dr. Seuss books and Pat the Bunny. Pan to the Believe School in New Orleans school that lost all their library books after Hurricane Katrina and, later, in a tornado.
Teachers have spent their own money on books. Kids talking about how much they'd like to have books in their library.
Over to John Legend, on site at the Believe school. All the books the audience has brought will be going into the school library. The Oprah show made over the school library in collaboration with Target. Completely rebuilt and stocked by Target. It's like Extreme Makeover: Library Edition.
Whoa these kids have Kindles! These kids are so cute. "In honor of your historic 25 seasons, Target has decided to rebuild 25 school libraries across the country," Legend says.
"That's impressive," Oprah says.
4:38: Diane Sawyer walks onstage. She looks gorgeous, wearing an all black suit. We love Diane.
"So, I've always thought that the closest Oprah is to heaven is when she's sitting one of her big oak trees, and I always imagine you're sitting there savoring a book," Sawyer says. Now she talking about how trees grow from saplings, roots, wind, tree, horizon. This is a metaphor for life, Oprah, and the show, Sawyer says. (Honestly this is a little confusing.)
"In honor of your 25 seasons, in front of every one of those 25 libraries, there is going to be a giant tree, the Oprah tree," Sawyer says, "standing and inviting every one of those children to bring their books and hopes and letting them know you embrace them, you bless them with that tree."
In honor of 25 seasons, 25,000 oak trees will be planted cross country.
4:45: Halle Berry, Queen Latifah, and Katie Holmes walk onstage! Oprah is waving from the audience.
Queen Latifah looks amaaaaaazing.
Berry is talking about how a woman decided to become a foster mom to 29 babies. (!?!?!) Katie Holmes is talking about Lani who helped people build water wells and homes. Oprah watchers have donated tons of money to Women for Women International. Queen Latifah talks about a viewer named Molly who helps women start vegetable farms so they can help their families.
4:46: Hm, commercial break. It's very touchy-feely-mushy, as expected, but we kind of would like to see more of a retrospective of the show or something like that. This first half of the Oprah show finale is much more litany-of-community-services-rendered than we thought it would be.
4:50: Every seat has a box of Kleenex underneath it. Now Katie and Tom Cruise are onstage! Together!
They just introduce Rascal Flatts, who are performing "I Won't Let Go," while Oprah sings along in the audience.
Pan out, break to commercial.
4:57: You know what would be an amazing surprise at this finale? If they got Oprah's longtime beau, Stedman, to propose onstage. That would be something.
Oprah's onstage now, thanking the audience for what they have done for the show. "You have made it possible for us to stay on for 25 years, your presence in front of your television set honors me in the deepest way possible," she says.
That's a wrap for the third-to-last-ever show in Oprah show history. Rascal Flatts playing us out...
· Oprah [Official Site]