Joe and the crew

'Twas the night before "Favorite Things" and Harpo's halls are abuzz with elves at work. After months of preparation—and Oprah's surprise announcement that there would be two "Favorite Things" shows—senior producer Jenna and her team are hard at work on the eve of the taping. "The thing about 'Favorite Things' is when you watch it on the show, it all looks so easy," Jenna says. "That takes a lot of work."

The day before taping, Team Favorite Things conducts a rehearsal for the first show on a set built to look like Santa's Workshop.

See how the sets were built 

With trains big enough to seat grown adults, conveyer belts bearing toys and more than 5,000 hand-wrapped gift boxes, director Joe walks the crew and producers through every movement Oprah needs to make on this complicated set. "Once we decide on this, we can't change it," Joe tells Jenna.

Jenna feels good about the show. "I'm feeling super excited and confident," she says. "We are going to put together two fantastic shows, make them different, make people want to watch both."

What Jenna doesn't know is that Oprah wants to add one more Favorite Thing—a move that could throw off all of Jenna's meticulous plans. "I called [executive producer] Sheri late last night and said I had been moved by Jay-Z's book. I wanted Jay-Z's book in the Favorite Things and they told me there wasn't time," Oprah says. "I started to think, 'What is the show called? I should be able to get that book in there.' I would be a fraud not to mention that book."

Before talking to the team, Oprah puts in a call to Jay-Z . "I want to choose this book as my Favorite Thing," she says. "But here's the problem. I'm taping the show tomorrow morning at 9 a.m., so I need 320 books here by tomorrow."

Listen in on the phone call

"That shouldn't be a problem," Jay-Z says.

Now, Sheri must deliver the news to Jenna. "I'm a little worried for her," Sheri says. "Jenna's got the most incredible stamina out of anyone on earth but I thought, 'This is going to be a really hard day.'"
Brian and Jenna

When Sheri arrives at rehearsal, she's awestruck by the set. "I've seen a lot of good sets from this team," she says. "I could not believe they were able to do that."

When Jenna comes over to invite her to stay for the run-through, Sheri drops the bomb. Jenna is stunned. "All of those products, that's all they are right now is time," Jenna says. "Every product [has] to feel that they have been given the love that they deserve. We are filled to the rafters. This show cannot accommodate one more thing."

In the control room with co-producer Brian, Jenna breaks down. "Maybe I entered into it with too much ego or confidence," she says. "This is a boatload of stuff. I don't know how we can fit it all in, and I don't know if it's all going to work."

Watch her emotional conversation with Brian. 

"Jenna's got a lot on her shoulders. Not one but two 'Favorite Things.' Two sets, double the products," Brian says. "I've never seen that side of her where she was scared like this isn't going to work."
Pre-show meeting


Later that afternoon, the team meets with Oprah in her office to run through the scripts for both shows to make sure all products—including Jay-Z's book—will fit in the show. "I can make it faster or slower," Oprah says. "This is a dance. And what I don't want, ladies and gentlemen, is at the end of the dance to be told that my record played too long."

Watch Oprah imitate Saturday Night Live's Favorite Things sketch 

When going through the scripts, Oprah offers to rehearse on set in order to time the show. "I just need to be down on the set, people, and read this down on the set." 

The team is surprised and relieved. "Oprah doesn't like to rehearse things on the shows a lot. She likes it to be spontaneous," producer Caroline says. "But with these Favorite Things sets, which are so complicated, we're really glad she's willing to actually come down to the studio."
Oprah at rehearsal

Down at Santa's Workshop, Joe walks Oprah through the first show. "There have been some moments when I've come down and looked at those sets and say, 'Wow, you should get an award for this,'" Oprah says.

During rehearsal, the crew practices dropping a box that will contain a Philip Roth watch. When Oprah reaches for it, it drops too low. Jenna and Caroline look stressed, but Oprah remains optimistic. "That's what rehearsal's for," Oprah says.

Jenna's not worried about Oprah—just everything else. "Oprah has got an amazing photographic memory, so she's going to get this nailed down," Jenna says. "But it's two shows with about 150 moving parts, so it still doesn't mean that a million things couldn't go wrong."
Oprah backstage


The big day arrives and Oprah can't wait to surprise her unsuspecting audiences. "I can't sleep at night," Oprah says. "It's like Christmas, birthday, biggest celebration, graduation, biggest moment, all rolled into one for me. Giving is the most fun you can ever have. I highly recommend it."

Two hours before taping, the first audience arrives. "There is nothing like 'Favorite Things.' The big part of the fun with 'Favorite Things' is that nobody knows it's going to happen," Sheri says. "It's like a rocket ride to joy."

As the audience is seated, Oprah puts on the fake dress she and her stylist designed to hide Oprah's holiday attire. When Oprah announces Favorite Things, she will rip off the subdued black dress to reveal a sparkly red outfit. "The whole ripping off the dress was Oprah's idea," Sheri says. "She and Kelly, her stylist, were kind of in cahoots on that."


When Oprah greets the audience, she asks everyone to start with a morning meditation. As the jingling of bells starts, the control room holds their breath—and the audience goes wild!

Watch how Oprah surprised the audience 

One man even fell to his knees in prayer. "I hadn't seen that one before where somebody actually went to their knees. [He was] so happy about everything. Lasagna pan, diamonds—same reaction," Oprah says. "There is nothing more fun and more rewarding than seeing people appreciate a gift and having somebody receive it in the spirit in which it's given."


Once the show gets going, Oprah's on a mission to get every single item in the segment without going over time. "Over the years, I don't know anyone who's ruined the time rules worse than I have. It's always been my own show and I know I can cut or edit and so I'm not always as cognizant of the times because I'm always more interested in the fun of it or the experience of it,'" Oprah says. "But this year because I realized I was doing two and it's a lot of work to go back and cut those things down, I was trying to stay on time."

Oprah mentions Jay-Z's book along with everything in record time—ending the segment one minute early. "Then I kind of relaxed," she says.

"I think that she was on a mission to say this can be done," Jenna says.
Oprah in control room

After Oprah announces all the items, she takes a break to allow the crew to set up equipment for a special Black Eyed Peas performance. "One of Oprah's favorite bands are the Black Eyed Peas," Jenna says. "You probably wouldn't really think of the Black Eyed Peas for a holiday show, but they had a new song out and we had been like, 'Love to make it a mash-up into a holiday song, too.'"

During the set change, Oprah stops in the control room. "Oprah came into the control room and seemed thrilled, seemed elated," Jenna says. "And that is a huge load off your shoulders. Most importantly, you want her to have fun."

Black Eyed Peas

The Black Eyed Peas are psyched to be part of "Favorite Things." "'Favorite Things' is an Oprah staple," says. "So to be part of this particular show giving back and bringing joy to people's lives, that's ultra. I love that."

The original plan was for the Black Eyed Peas to come out in a giant snow globe filled as smoke billowed at their feet. Unfortunately, the smoke machine was set too high. The globe filled with so much smoke, no one could see the group. "Everybody is freaking out. I'm hearing my name being screamed," Joe says. "At that point, my only concern is to let them finish that first performance and then immediately I will have a word with them. We have to do that again. Shit happens and it did."

Because Oprah wanted to experience the performance along with the audience, she knew nothing about what was supposed to happen. "I didn't know that the globe wasn't supposed to fill with smoke," Oprah says. "But I was just thinking, 'Hope they're not going to be singing for a long time.'"

The second try works like a charm. "We did another take and it was great," says. "I never thought that I would be in a snow globe in my life."

As Oprah rehearses for the second show, the first audience is paraded out in front of the next group— gifts and all. "We had already been getting little sneak reports saying that the B show audience is not happy," Jenna says. "The master plan is working."

Watch Oprah mastermind this fake-out 

Oprah came up with the "gotcha" plan herself eight weeks before taping. To throw off the second audience, she wanted them to believe they had missed "Favorite Things" by mere hours. "I knew that if you didn't see the [first] audience walking out with the stuff, you might think, 'Well, maybe ours will be [Favorite Things],'" Oprah says. "What I loved about that is having people have that moment of, 'We just missed it. Can you believe it?' and knowing that we were going to surprise them."

Oprah is downright giddy as tape time approaches. "I'm glad the first audience got all their stuff and they were really happy, but really can't wait to play that little trick on the second audience," Oprah says. "So fun."
Backstage with Oprah

Going into the last "Favorite Things" taping ever, the producers, crew and Oprah ready themselves to say farewell to this labor of love. "I went into 'Favorite Things' this year knowing I was going to do it and do it as big and as loud as I can," Oprah says. "And regardless of what the next chapter brings for me, this will not be a part of it."

In the makeup room, Oprah is surrounded with support. "You know it's big if Stedman's here," Oprah says. "Stedman has only been to, in my entire career, I think three shows. So for Stedman to come by a show, it's like extraordinary things must be happening."

"I knew the second show was going to be tough for you," Stedman says.

Watch Oprah and Stedman discuss their relationship

Finally, it's showtime. "Let's bring it home," Oprah says.


When Oprah takes the stage, she starts a "casual" conversation with the audience about how she had taped "Favorite Things" that morning. "We're all sitting in the control room," Jenna says. "And we're marveling at the way Oprah is pulling this off."

When Oprah asks if they are jealous that they missed "Favorite Things," one woman admits she is. "I love that lady in pink who was really pissed. She was already wading in it, then she stepped full throttle down into it," Oprah says. "Loved that woman. I was working it."

Finally, one lone ornament drops from the ceiling and the frenzy begins again for the last time. "That was good," Oprah says. "Good fake-out."

Watch how it all happened 
Oprah and Stedman

After the show, Oprah compliments the entire crew. "Here's to the best team in television. I don't know how y'all pulled it off," Oprah says. "That was fantastic. That's actually the most fun I ever had doing one."

For "Favorite Things" veterans, the moment is bittersweet. "That was my 10th year doing 'Favorite Things' and I am going to miss it," Jenna says. "Saying goodbye is like saying goodbye to an old friend." 

Look back at Favorite Things of years past

Find out how the final Favorite Things were chosen

Meet Lotar—Harpo fix-it man and Favorite Things elf


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