Oprah's Farewell Episode: What Critics Say

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Many were hard-pressed to believe the talk show host was truly surprised at the celebs who showed up on the show, which aired part one Monday.

The countdown is on!

The third-to-last Oprah Winfrey Show finally aired Monday. The star-studded extravaganza was taped last Tuesday at Chicago's United Center; part two airs Tuesday. Read The Hollywood Reporter’s minute-by-minute live blog here.

Critics were hard-pressed to believe that Winfrey, who will focus full-time on her fledgling cable network, OWN, was unaware of the celeb guests who were flying in to "surprise" her. PHOTOS: Oprah's most memorable moments

"Let's do away with the notion that Oprah was shocked by every guest who trotted out, This-Is-Your-Life Style, to the delight of thousands of her most loyal fans," wrote the Los Angeles Times' Rebecca Traister.

Still, "it was clear the crowd realized it was getting the celebrity equivalent of an Oprah’s Favorite Things Giveaway. And it was, except with awkward variety-show interludes!" adds the Times of the show, which featured Madonna, Tom Hanks, Rascal Flatts, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.

Even though Traister was critical of some of the stars, she admitted Winfrey's run on TV was monumental: "Twenty-five years the likes of which will not come again."

The U.K. Guardian compared the televised show stars to one of Hollywood's biggest bashes. "The list read like the cream of the Vanity Fair Oscar party. Tom Cruise was there. So were Tom Hanks and Will Smith, Madonna, Jerry Seinfeld and Stevie Wonder," writes the paper's Paul harris.

"Even Maria Shriver, recently split from Arnold Schwarzenegger, shrugged off her marital problems to answer Oprah's siren call," fawned Harris.

The Chicago Tribune noted that Oprah may have brought together "the biggest collection of A-list stars in the city's history."

"Jamie Foxx flew in from the Cannes Film Festival. Tom Cruise took a break from preproduction work on Rock of Ages. Maria Shriver … well, you know what was going on with her," wrote the paper's Mark Caro. "What could possibly compare? Election night for Barack Obama? A Michael Jordan-era Bulls playoff game? Lollapalooza? The Chicago Film Critics Association Awards? None of these events boasted the intense star wattage of the third- and second-to-last Oprah Winfrey Show episodes taped Tuesday."