It's not so hard to get in touch with Oprah Winfrey. For the past few weeks, viewers who've followed the former Queen of Daytime into prime time on her eponymous cable network have found themselves able to engage in real-time conversations with Winfrey via Skype, Facebook and Twitter during the nightly series Oprah's Lifeclass (Monday-through-Friday, 8/7c, OWN).
During the live part of last Friday's show, which filmed in Los Angeles, a young man named Harel beamed in via Skype from Israel to ask Winfrey herself for some advice; simply, he'd been having a bit of an existential crisis. She shared her own thoughts on giving back and then read him a comment from a Facebook user who had written in, especially for Harel: "You are here. We are all one in a million possibilities. You matter." When a college student in Plattville, Wis., spoke to Winfrey and Friday's co-coach Iyanla Vanzant about her inability to move on from the driving accident she caused that killed her best friend a year ago, Winfrey again quoted a Facebook user. "From Marlene: Tell her to celebrate life instead of reliving the death."
Each night during Oprah's Lifeclass, Winfrey shares the life lessons she learned during 25 years of The Oprah Winfrey Show. The weeknight series premiered Oct. 10 to 330,000 viewers — but without the recently added Friday post-show that airs live on TV and online, putting her in touch with her fans.
Last Friday, more than 46,000 Lifeclass students logged in to the show's Facebook page, in addition to those who participated on Twitter, to talk and leave comments on what was happening live. Many of those were read on-air by both Winfrey and OWN President Sheri Salata, who also live-tweeted during the session. Those in the studio audience were encouraged by producers to participate on Facebook and tweet from their seats; laptops and iPads were welcome.
"We're working out the balance between TV and the online thing," Winfrey told the audience as she bounced among Skype conversations, Facebook, polling the audience and chatting with the in-studio guest (last week, it was Nia Vardalos). And she seemed to really be enjoying the free-flowing format. "I did the fire waaaaaaalk," she sang to the audience at the top of the show, explaining that for her new January series, Oprah's Next Chapter, she had recently interviewed Tony Robbins.
"Are you tweeting? Did you tell 'em I was a firewalker?" she asked during a commercial break. She fawned over recently booted Dancing with the Stars contestant David Arquette, who Skyped in to share his own moment about being kind to yourself. And at the end of the evening, she told her guests how amazed she was to have interacted with Lifeclass watchers in New Mexico, Connecticut, Toronto, Wisconsin and Israel. "I love this," she said.
The first season of Lifeclass concludes Friday, and Winfrey announced that a second season would begin early next year -- with a few changes. The Chicago-based series will go on the road and switch to a weekly format as opposed to a daily one, which she said her students found to be "way too much" in terms of keeping up with the homework.
Have you logged on to do some deep-thinking with Oprah? Will you enroll in a second season of in Lifeclass?