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Oprah Winfrey’s chat with Whitney Houston leads talk queen to best premiere numbers in three years.

Last Updated: September 29, 2009 @ 5:21 PM

"The Oprah Winfrey Show" is defying gravity.

With big boosts from Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson, TV’s top talk show kicked off its 24th season with premiere week ratings up a stunning 30 percent vs. last year, and its best overall launch week ratings in three years.

What’s more, "Oprah" began the season as the No. 1 show in all of syndication (not just talkers), beating out bitter rivals "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy" for the top spot. (OK, there’s no evidence of bitterness between Oprah, Pat and Alex, but it sounds better this way, don’t you think?)

According to final national numbers, "Oprah" notched a 6.1 household rating vs. a 4.7 rating last season. Part two of Winfrey’s conversation with Houston averaged a 7.4 HH rating and gave The Op her biggest episode in two years (since the 2007 Oprah’s Favorite Things screamfest).

Winfrey also scored with an episode in which she introduced clips of her 1993 primetime interview with Jackson. It averaged a 6.2 rating.

Perhaps this will knock down the "Oprah is falling!" meme that’s been floating around the media since last year, when the Los Angeles Times make a weak case that Winfrey’s support for Barack Obama was causing her to bleed viewers. More recently, one media outlet interpreted a seven percent decline in Winfrey’s seasonal numbers as a sign that Winfrey had lost her touch — as opposed to, say, a sign that just about everything in TV is down these days.

Moving on: It was also a good week for the Oprah-created Dr. Oz. His new syndie talk show premiered with a 2.3 HH rating, tying "Live with Regis and Kelly" for the No. 8 slot in all of syndication.

Since any new syndicated series with a rating above a 1 these days is consider a blockbuster, we’re going to assume Dr. Oz distributor Sony Pictures Television is happy with the numbers. 

We’re assuming because so far, the studio hasn’t sent one bit of ratings info to us about the show. (Guess they’re taking the low-key approach over at  Camp Oz). 

In any case, the aforementioned game show axis of evil, "Wheel" and "Jeopardy," ranked No. 2 and No. 3 for the first week of the new season, followed by "Entertainment Tonight" and "Judge Judy."