March 07, 1994 12:00 PM

How to Marry the Man of Your Choice. That was the topic that launched Oprah Winfrey’s talk show nationally on Sept. 8. With her warm presence and a down-to-earth attitude that softened the program’s sensationalist screech, Oprah quickly displaced Phil Donahue as the ratings champ of syndicated afternoon talk. Phil—whose very first guest, way back in ’67, was atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair—was soon complaining about having to cheapen his show to stay competitive. “We get paid to draw a crowd,” he said not long after a program that featured dwarf-tossing. “When we don’t draw a crowd, we don’t get paid.” Oprah wasn’t the only competition: There was Sally Jessy Raphaël, with her red eyeglass frames and no-nonsense empathy, and Geraldo Rivera, with his untoppable talent for pulpy melodrama (you may recall his chair-throwing incident with neo-Nazis). Here’s a guide to the battle of the tongues.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

1987

…Shelley Long quit Cheers…

Garrison Keillor left Lake Wobegon…

Carrie Fisher sent Postcards from the Edge…

The Bangles walked like an Egyptian…

Hoffman and Beatty bombed in Ishtar…

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