Oprah Winfrey has sent shockwaves through the media with her decision to end her influential talk show after a 25-year-run that rivals, as Gawker's Richard Rushfield puts it, those of "Fidel Castro and Muammar al-Gaddafi as one of the most durable dictatorships of our age." (Watch celebrities predict what's in store for Oprah.) Her departure in 2011 will leave a gaping void in the talk-show universe, and media commentators are already debating the merits of possible Oprah successors — from Ryan Seacrest ("a bit cold for daytime TV") to Paula Abdul ("erratic and wobbly"). Some of the more intriguing suggestions:
Glenn Beck: In some respects, Glenn Beck is already becoming the "new Oprah," says Motoko Rich in The New York Times. "Virtually every novelist in America fantasizes" about going on Oprah, but Beck is the go-to publicity machine for writers of thrillers. He also has "the No. 2 show on cable despite airing in the afternoons," notes Chris Ariens in Mediabistro. Beck’s "three-dimensional talent" makes him a strong choice for "Oprah’s syndicated replacement."
Ellen DeGeneres: Many network executives "see Ellen DeGeneres as the heir to Winfrey’s talk queen crown," says Michael Schneider in Variety. And Oprah seems on board—she "just put DeGeneres on the cover of her magazine." DeGeneres' own daytime talk show is already a huge hit, says AOL’s PopEater. So she's a good fit, "as long as she can tone down the silliness" when discussing the grave implications of shopping addiction. (Watch Ellen DeGeneres' comments on Oprah's daytime departure)
Sarah Palin: Palin’s appearance on Oprah was one of Oprah’s "highest-rated episodes," says Jon Friedman in MarketWatch. And as Palin talked, it looked like "Oprah was pondering the prospect of Palin succeeding her on the talk show. Wouldn’t that be a delicious piece of irony!" Yes, but not a likely one, says PopEater’s Mike Hess. "Palin is entertaining and certainly has gripped the nation," but she’s too "polarizing" and political for daytime talk TV.
Tyra Banks: While almost every daytime personality from Martha to Judge Judy could conceivably get a boost if Oprah takes her show out of syndication, says Willa Paskin at Blackbook, none has "been as vocal about being 'the next Oprah' as the aggressively energetic, perennially misguided (Smize! Blackface. The acting career) Tyra. Now she’ll have her chance."
"Tyra, James Frey to thank Oprah for abandoning the masses
Stop speculating — nobody can replace Oprah: We’re "entering a post-Oprah period," says James Poniewozik in Time. There's probably no one who can match her wide impact and appeal — look what happened after Johnny Carson equally seismic departure. My bet is that "the next Oprah will be several Oprahs, specializing, spread across several shows."