Oprah has always given extravagant gifts to her audience members, from pajamas to fancy refrigerators to cars and more. But on the premiere episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" on Monday, which kicks off the 25th and final season, she is giving the audience an all-expenses paid round trip to Sydney, Australia.
Generous, yes, but is the eight-day vacation too lavish when viewers at home are feeling the pinch of the tough economy? When the economy tanked in 2008, the show responded by refocusing the popular holiday season "Favorite Things" episode -- which featured spendy gifts and super excited recipients in the audience -- to do inexpensive and DYI presents. Then last year, "Favorite Things" was canceled. (We're told it will be back for the final season.)
Let's do a quick and dirty, very rough guesstimate of the cost of the trip for her 300 devoted audience members:
- Economy round-trip tickets from Chicago to Sydney on Qantas: $450,000
- 7 nights at a hotel: $195,000
- Food and drink: $120,000
- Ground transportation: $60,000
Total: $825,000; $2,750 per person
Doesn't seem too outrageous, does it? (And the show's sponsors are probably chipping in for much of the cost.) Or is it still too much given that so many people are struggling? Or perhaps it's even a good thing -- a happy story for some very lucky viewers.
Oprah said in a statement that she wanted to kick off her final season "in a big way," and here it is. Whether we'd like to see her do more things like giving her audience $1,000 to spend on a good deed (as she did in 2006) or continue showering her loyal viewers with presents, she's going to make this season unforgettable.