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Mudbound

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Ballad of Narayama

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Oprah takes it to another level

If we had the British Constitution, Oprah Winfrey would be our queen.

It isn't an elected position. You're born into it.

You have no legislative power, but the leaders of both political parties consult with you and advise you of their plans.

You make an annual state of the nation speech.

By your decision, commoners are raised up to knighthood. Everybody knows what you're reading. Everything you wear, everyone you know, everywhere you go, makes the headlines. You're as famous as your nation's elected leader. You are its best ambassador abroad.

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There's one big difference between Oprah Winfrey and HRM Elizabeth. Oprah makes more money.

Her decision to discontinue her historic talk show after 25 years has caused the biggest TV media-storm since Johnny Carson retired. Her final announcement Friday show posted Nielsens like the Super Bowl. Everybody already knew the news, and wanted to know what she'll do next.

I'm happy to tell you.

1. Oprah will transport her program to the OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) cable channel.

2. She'll dial down on the New Age stuff and focus more on breaking news of great human interest.

3. She'll do a show saying she's not going to do any more shows about her weight. It will continue to concern her, but if we want to know how she's doing, we can see for ourselves.

4. She'll anoint Ellen DeGeneres as her successor.

Oprah hinted that fourth decision a few weeks ago when she devoted an entire hour of her show to Ellen's show. When was the last time you saw a talk show devote an episode to another talk show? Doesn't it strike you as odd?

The internet buzz has it that Sarah Palin will take over from Oprah. As Tina Brown writes at DailyBeast today, "It's so clear from this first round of book promo interviews that Palin could be the natural star to grab Oprah's crown and her time slot."

I've been saying for a year that Palin would be great with her own talk show. In fact, I've urgently advised her to do so instead of running for office. But taking over for Oprah?

Give me a moment to think about this.

Hmmm. (*Meditate, Meditate*)

No, I don't think so.

Leaving an institution you created, after a quarter-century, can't be easy. I e-mailed Oprah asking if she shed a tear when she arrived at the decision. She e-mailed back: "when I made the decision no tears. thinking about talking to the viewers is what brought the tears. like breaking up what has been the most beautiful relationship. loved your column today. and the crown!!"

For Oprah Winfrey, the future is as bright, or maybe brighter, than the past. First she owned her own show. Now she owns her own cable network. In retirement, she'll own television.

Of course America doesn't have the British constitution, so Oprah can't ever be our queen. But she'll always have been our first black President.

See also: "How I Gave Oprah Her Start."

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