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In 25th and final season, Oprah starts with a bang

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Oprah's big surprise is...
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: 300 audience members will travel to Australia in December
  • Winfrey is preparing for the final season of her longtime talk show
  • The show's first episode aired on September 8, 1986
  • Her new network, OWN, launches on January 1
RELATED TOPICS
  • Oprah Winfrey
  • Media
  • Talk Shows
  • Television

(CNN) -- Oprah Winfrey opened her talk show's 25th and final season Monday with the surprise of a lifetime for her audience, a favorite tactic for the media maven.

The 300 audience members will travel to Australia in December -- courtesy of Winfrey -- on an eight-day, seven-night trip that has been in the making for nearly a year, according to her production company, Harpo Productions.

While there, the Sydney Opera House will be the site of a special "Oprah Winfrey Show" taping before thousands of Australian fans.

Monday's surprise trip rivals one of Winfrey's most famous episodes, when she gave away cars to each of her audience members to open her 19th season in 2004. She's also known for giving away thousands of dollars in gifts to the lucky audience members who attend her annual "Favorite Things" show.

Winfrey announced last year that she would be taking her longtime talk show off the air.

"Twenty-five years feels right in my bones and it feels right in my spirit. It's the perfect number -- the exact right time," Winfrey said in a statement at the time.

Since then, the television mogul has said her show will go out with a bang.

As of January 1, Winfrey will move on to her new OWN network, and as a result, she told TV Guide that she has different standards for her guests for the upcoming season.

"This year will be about creating moments," she said.

The premiere week of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" will feature an appearance by country stars Naomi and Wynonna

Judd; a return visit to Williamson, West Virginia, where Winfrey did an episode on HIV/AIDS in 1987, to talk with the guests of that show; a one-on-one with Bethany Storro, a victim of an acid attack caused by a stranger; and the announcement of Winfrey's latest book club selection, according to a press release.

The premiere episode is supposed to be filled with celebrity guests and a surprise musical performance.

"The Oprah Winfrey Show" first hit national airwaves on September 8, 1986.

"I was beyond excited ... and as you all might expect, a little nervous," Winfrey said in her statement announcing the show's last season. "I knew then what a miraculous opportunity I had been given, but I certainly never could have imagined the 'yellow brick road' of blessings that have led me to this moment with you."

Winfrey told TV Guide, "the show hasn't been a big part of my life. It's been my life. I didn't have children. I had the show.

"I don't intend to be crying the whole season," she told TV Guide. "The only time I get really emotional and nostalgic about the show is when I think about the viewers. Hopefully some of them will follow me to OWN, but I know not everybody will."

But leaving behind "The Oprah Winfrey Show" won't be the end of her entertainment career.

OWN, short for the Oprah Winfrey Network, is touted as "a multi-platform media company designed to entertain, inform and inspire people to live their best lives."

It launches on what is currently the Discovery Health Channel.

CNN's Breeanna Hare contributed to this report.

 
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