Exec Producer: Oprah Winfrey to Air Four Shows From Australia

Oprah in Sydney - Final Season - 2010
James Morgan

Bindi Irwin, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Keith Urban, Olivia Newton-John and Jay-Z will appear; plus, the talk show host has taped footage at a local barbecue, a baby shower – and she even joined one family for their weekly taco night.

SYDNEY -- Oprah’s Ultimate Australian Adventure has proved just that, with the talk show queen cracking a breakneck pace in the last six days here, travelling, albeit in five star fashion, several thousand kilometres from Cairns and Hamilton Island in tropical Queensland, Uluru in the central Australian desert, the southern most city of Melbourne and Sydney Harbour, while filming for four of her talk shows here.

The Ultimate Adventure culminates Tuesday local time with an early morning press conference that precedes the taping of two Oprah Winfrey shows in the forecourt of the Sydney Opera House, and in the shadow of a giant pink O that’s lit up the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  

Designed to showcase Australia at its picture-perfect best, viewers watching the shows in January will see Winfrey and her 302 “ultimate adventurers" in vignettes as they’ve travelled the length and breadth of the country. 

She’ll be seen talking with Australian prime minister Julia Gillard while walking along Melbourne’s Yarra River, cuddling koalas on Hamilton Island, taking a helicopter trip around the ancient monolith of Uluru, hosting a cocktail party in Sydney’s Botanic Gardens and climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge. 

Certainly Winfrey’s hobnobbed with some famous friends – she went sailing today on Sydney Harbour with Russell Crowe and a 21-boat flotilla, with each boat's sails featuring her show's logo, and had  a beachfront barbeque cooked by Aussie celebrity chef and Oprah show regular, Curtis Stone

On Tuesday, its been confirmed that Crowe, Bindi Irwin, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban, and Olivia Newton-John will appear across the two shows. Bon Jovi will perform some of their greatest hits and hip hop star Jay-Z will stop by, while a “soaring finale" with special guests will close the shows.

But as befits Winfrey’s style, she’s also gone into the homes and workplaces of ordinary Australians, having a backyard barbecue with a Lebanese-Australian family in Sydney, co-hosting a surprise baby shower for a Melbourne-based former audience member, and joining another Melbourne family for their weekly taco night. She reportedly wants to assist underprivileged aboriginal children as well. 

Certainly Winfrey and her crews have proved themselves workhorses and she has embraced her Australian fans with the same enthusiasm and warmth ass her fans back in the U.S. They in turn have proved equally enthusiastic about her visit. At least 8000 of them turned out at Melbourne’s Federation Square to see her on Friday and there have been followers and paparazzi at each of her known stops. 

The Hollywood Reporter caught up with one of Winfrey's“ultimate adventurers”, Samuel Jones from Los Angeles, who’s been an Oprah fan since 1986. He’s already planning a return visit to Australia, after an “amazing whirlwind” of a trip over six days. 

Jones was part of a group of 43 that traveled to the coastal town of Byron Bay in northern New South Wales, and had a day at Olivia Newton-John’s Gaia spa and retreat there, while others surfed, hiked and snorkeled. On their return to Sydney they climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge with Winfrey Sunday. 

Still, Jones said the highlight was walking the red carpet into the Botanic Gardens cocktail party Saturday, with Winfrey taking his hand. 

“That was the experience of a lifetime. She is my inspiration and guidance. I owe my bachelor's and master's degrees to her, she inspired me to do them." 

In all the trip will give Harpo Productions enough material for four shows. Executive producer Sheri Salata confirmed that four programs will be made from the trip, up from the three originally planned. 

As well Network Ten, the show's Australian broadcast affiliate, will air a one-hour special here on Tuesday night, with an exclusive interview with Winfrey about the trip. 

Nevertheless elements of the visit have rankled some locals who have questioned who’ll be paying for a massive police presence and road closures in central Sydney tomorrow, while others are annoyed that the Sydney Harbour Bridge has been lit with a giant pink O during the visit – the first time a commercial enterprise has been allowed to do that. 

It's been estimated that Tourism Australia, Qantas and the state-based tourism bodies have ponied up around $5 million for the cost of the trip.