As often happens in life, there are reversals of circumstances that are novelistic and almost unbelievable. Just such a reversal of roles has happened to Gayle and her best friend Oprah. When Oprah’s talk show was on the air, the relationship between the women had a relaxed bond yet one thing was clear: Oprah was the wellspring from which Gayle’s celebrity and relevance flowed. Oprah had created the platform and the celebrity and the power. About five years ago, Gayle King, a woman we only knew as a confident, sometimes annoying sidekick to Oprah, the queen of all media, suddenly showed up on Channel 2, CBS, the Tiffany network once run by William Paley, the man who gave us Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather and Sixty Minutes.
Yes. Gayle, the spunky Oprah tag along, is now a newscaster and not only a newscaster but a credible colleague of Charlie Rose. This is the no nonsense PBS Charlie Rose, a man who became iconic when PBS was still the holy network and not flooded with self-help marathons. Charlie interviews diplomats and world leaders and Nobel prize winners and tech titans and even hip hop moguls in a quiet intimate setting without commercial interruptions.
When I first reviewed the Charlie and Gayle morning show a few years ago, they appeared to me as The Professor and The Most Improved Student but now – five years in- Gayle has earned her position. Whenever Oprah is a guest on the show, it is apparent that their old dynamic has changed. Gayle has her good serious show and Oprah is just a guest. The darned tables are turned.
There is no documentation but I’m sure there was a conversation in the big master bedroom in Oprah’s estate in Montecito that went like this.
Oprah: I was on CBS this morning. I couldn’t help but feel that something had shifted. I’m now the sidekick and Gayle is the one who stays on the show after my segment is over. It felt weird.
Stedman: Were you jealous?
Oprah: Not jealous. After all I have a whole network even though no one can find it. I have my own network and all the money.
Stedman: But what felt weird?
Oprah: Gayle has something more interesting and more immediately exciting. She has credibility on a respected network news show. Gayle has Charlie Rose and I only have Weight Watchers and The Girls Academy and my soul podcasts and a lot of money.
Stedman: Do you wish you had a news show?
Oprah: I don’t know. Maybe. It just felt weird.
You can imagine my surprise a few Sundays back when Sixty Minutes announced a new special correspondent. It was Oprah. Yes. She was a special correspondent on Gayle’s own network. On the sacrosanct Sixty Minutes. Don Hewitt must have at least shifted in his grave. God knows what Mike Wallace is saying. Andy Rooney would like it. Oprah’s segment was about America’s political divide.
Life is reliably weird.