She remains a powerful microphone for a White House looking to regain the 2008 magic
CHICAGO -- Sorry, America, but Chicago is not atwitter over President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama returning to tape "Oprah" on Wednesday -- even if its significance shouldn't be discounted.
Other stuff is going on. Two sports teams have been in the playoffs. Agonizing over two, underperforming baseball teams is in full swing. A policy Energizer Bunny, the maniacally-disciplined and primed-for-action Mayor-Elect Rahm Emanuel, is sucking up media oxygen prior to his May 16 inaugural. Gas prices are over $4.50 a gallon. And the economy's awful and people are hurting.
And ratings for Oprah Winfrey, the most potent force in daytime television, have been tracking downward in recent years. Even the much ballyhooed final season of her show, which opened with word that John Travolta would fly the entire audience of 300 by commercial jet to Australia (which he did in December), has seen a decline (with the exception of a few home runs, including an appearance by her long-lost sister).
Yet the Obamas' planned appearance (to be aired May 2) is surely a winner, in the great middle-brow cultural tradition of then-presidential candidate Richard Nixon making fun of himself on "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In" in 1968 or then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton in 1992 playing sax on Arsenio Hall's old show. Oprah, after all, is still as big as it gets on daytime, a force to be reckoned with, her ratings still unsurpassed elsewhere on the 300-plus channel smorgasbord of soaps, infomercials, maudlin flicks, endless "Law and Order" reruns, and knockoff talk shows.