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Quick Takes: Oprah's 'love letter'

May 26, 2011

There were no free cars or vacations. No favorite things or makeovers. No celebrity guests on stage — though there were plenty in the audience.

The finale of Oprah Winfrey's talk show, taped Tuesday and aired Wednesday, was all about the one thing that made her a billion-dollar success: the unique connection she made with millions of viewers for 25 years. In what she called her "love letter" to fans, she made clear that to her, all those TV friendships went both ways.

"Something in me connected with each of you in a way that allowed me to see myself in you and you in me," Winfrey said. "I listened and grew, and I know you grew along with me."

At the end, she hugged and kissed her longtime partner Stedman Graham and shook hands with audience members before walking through the halls of Harpo Studios in Chicago, hugging and crying with her staff. She shouted, "We did it!"

The last shot of the finale showed Winfrey walking away with her cocker spaniel, Sadie.

—Associated Press

Stephen King play nears reality

Horror writer Stephen King's first play, "The Ghost Brothers of Darkland County," featuring music and lyrics by rocker John Mellencamp, is finally ready for the stage.

The musical was originally scheduled for its debut at Atlanta's Alliance Theatre in 2009 but was postponed because Mellencamp and the director weren't getting along, King said. A new director has been brought in and it's now set to open next April at the Alliance.

King said the project originated about 11 years ago when Mellencamp told his agent about an idea he had for a play involving ghosts in a cabin. It turned out his agent was also King's agent, and he put the two together.

—Associated Press

National Opera gets new advisor

The Washington National Opera said Wednesday that it has appointed Francesca Zambello as the company's artistic advisor as famed tenor Plácido Domingo steps down after 15 years with the opera.

The appointment comes as the company merges with the Kennedy Center to provide stability after years of financial struggles. Zambello previously worked with Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser at London's Royal Opera House.

Zambello is a respected director in both opera and musical theater. She is currently directing a new production of Wagner's "Ring" cycle for the San Francisco Opera.

—Associated Press

'Dancing' draws record viewers

The results are in and we have a winner: This has been the most-watched season for "Dancing With the Stars."

Season 12 of ABC's dance contest averaged a series-high 21.1 million viewers, according to the Nielsen Co. The Monday performance shows averaged 22.5 million, up 4% compared with the 11th season. The series ranks second this season behind only "American Idol."

That's a little surprising because "Dancing With the Stars," which crowned NFL star Hines Ward and his partner Kym Johnson as winners in Tuesday's finale, has always been viewed as dependent on casting for ratings.

This year, the program had to do without the tabloid stars, such as Bristol Palin and Kate Gosselin, who have helped drive viewership in the past. The closest this batch came to a tabloid sensation was Kirstie Alley, who lost a great deal of weight (she has refused to say how much) during the contest.

A couple of competitive factors may have helped ABC this time around. CBS has run repeats of "Two and a Half Men" since mid-February, which has enabled rivals to snatch some viewers. The same holds for Fox's move of "American Idol" off Tuesday nights this season.

—Scott Collins

VH1 readies pop-ups again

VH1 will bring a couple of seminal shows out of mothballs, reviving "Pop Up Video" and "Behind the Music" with some modern tweaks.

The cable network also announced it's renewing a few of its contemporary hits, "Mob Wives" and "Love & Hip Hop."

"Pop Up Video" was hugely influential during its run. It hasn't been on the air for a decade, and network executives have ordered 60 episodes for the fall featuring current music videos and new graphics.

The star will be, as it had been in the past, the pithy, informative, goofy pop-up bubbles that give bits of background on the song, the musical artists and the cultural context.

"Behind the Music" will return in June with seven episodes profiling such artists as Ice Cube, Mary J. Blige, Ricky Martin, Adam Lambert and Enrique Iglesias.

—T.L. Stanley

Finally

New trainer: Russian-born tennis player Anna Kournikova will join the weight-loss contest "The Biggest Loser" as a trainer this fall, NBC said Wednesday.

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