Ellen DeGeneres walks away from her talk show empire, leaving a mixed legacy | Ellen Degeneres

With tear-stained cheeks, Ellen Degeneres he signed off on his chat show for the last time on Thursday, ending a daytime television monster that had lasted 19 years.

The guest list for the final show included Billie Eilish, Pink and Jennifer Aniston, making her 20th appearance, a run dating back to the syndicated chat show’s debut. He also saw DeGeneres’ brother, Vance, and his wife, Portia de Rossi, get very emotional as the audience gave the 64-year-old host one last standing ovation.

There’s no question that DeGeneres leaves a huge hole in the daytime lineups, with her small-screen crown now up for Drew Barrymore and Kelly Clarkson to fight for. But the legacy she leaves behind on her show is mixed. It was a risky move that took the brilliant comedienne, whose skyrocketing career stalled after he came out as gay, and remade her as the undisputed queen of daytime television. But the show was plagued by scandals in recent seasons, as former employees of hers accused her of presiding over a toxic workplace. And while DeGeneres publicly apologized and vowed to change the corporate culture of her show, the damage had already been done. Amid declining ratings, DeGeneres announced last May that this would be her last season.

The end of Ellen's show leaves a hole in the daytime bill.
The end of Ellen’s show leaves a hole in the daytime bill. Photograph: Michael Rozman/AP

In the 1980s, it would have been hard to name another comic other than Roseanne Barr who was as hot as Louisiana-born DeGeneres, whose pleasant, observant style led many to call her the “female Seinfeld.” In her inaugural appearance on the Tonight Show in 1986, a fluffy DeGeneres made the crowd laugh with family stories presented in the most efficient language, in the driest tone. And the jokes were often at her expense. (“My parents were extremely cruel to me,” he joked. “I remember coming home from kindergarten… Well, they told me it was kindergarten. I found out later that he had been working in a factory for two years.” years.”) After his five-minute presentation, host Johnny Carson motioned for her to sit in the spare seat next to him, the ultimate seal of approval, and told her she could come back anytime she wanted.

After that anointing, DeGeneres’ career followed the classic star-making pattern of that decade. First came major club gigs, then coveted slots on high-profile TV comedy specials, then cameos in Coneheads and other slapstick movies. Finally, in 1994, ABC built a sitcom around her called Ellen, about a neurotic Los Angeles bookstore owner, which also featured Jeremy Piven before Entourage. The show was a ratings hit and critical favorite that earned DeGeneres three Emmy nominations. In 1997, at the height of her pre-day popularity, DeGeneres came out as a lesbian in Time magazine and on The Oprah Winfrey Show; then, on DeGeneres’ own sitcom, her character came out: a therapist played by Winfrey and a love interest played by Laura Dern.

The reveal of the sitcom, the first of its kind on network television, ended years of audience speculation and network suspicion about Ellen’s on-screen character. The show’s title, the Puppy Episode, chosen expressly to get rid of the smell, actually ended up surprising 42 million viewers, the most in the series. The episode was celebrated in the LBGTQ+ community, but it was also the focus of a huge backlash.

JCPenney and Chrysler were among the largest sponsors to pull ads. Jerry Falwell dubbed DeGeneres “Ellen DeGenerate” and joined other prominent right-wingers in a public letter denouncing the episode. One group ran a full page ad in Variety accusing ABC of promoting homosexuality. In a 2019 interview, Dern recalled cops sweeping the soundstage for bombs during rehearsals and said she had trouble finding work for nearly a year afterward. DeGeneres herself was the subject of death threats. Even Anne Heche, the actress who had a very public relationship and breakup with DeGeneres during that time, suffered collateral damage.

DeGeneres with her two Emmy Awards, for Outstanding Talk Show and Outstanding Talk Show Host.
DeGeneres with her two Emmy Awards, for Outstanding Talk Show and Outstanding Talk Show Host. Photograph: REUTERS

After the puppy episode, the show was backed up for another season, albeit with warnings to parents as ABC tried to walk the line between appeasing critics and rooting for DeGeneres, who bent over and kissed a female co-star in another landmark episode. . But in the end, the middle ground collapsed. In 1998, a year after DeGeneres left, Ellen was canceled, a decision, she said, that caught her by surprise. She bounced back on CBS with The Ellen Show (another series in which she played a lesbian) only to end up canceled after 18 episodes, five of them unaired. In 2007, a former writer’s assistant accused her of treating the writers on the Ellen Show “how the fuck”, a subject that would revisit her at the end.

Even though much of the country had warmed to DeGeneres’ sexuality, largely thanks to her paving the way for Will & Grace, Ugly Betty and other shows that made it normal to see gay characters on sitcoms, it seemed that she could settle. for a relatively smaller career as a touring comedian and ambassador for GLAAD.

But then, two years later, she resurfaced with the Warner Bros-produced Ellen DeGeneres Show, a daytime talk show that launched at a time when Sharon Osborn and Rita Rudner were vying to become the next Winfrey. DeGeneres, an openly gay woman, hardly seemed her favorite. But she proved a hit from the get-go, winning over skeptical average Americans with her happy feet and relentless self-loathing of her own. In the first year, the show was nominated for 11 Daytime Emmy Awards and won for Outstanding Talk Show. And when Winfrey said goodbye to her from her talk show in 2011, DeGeneres succeeded her on the throne of daytime television. Her return to the big screen as Dory in Finding Nemo was confirmation of her obvious overall appeal.

For most of its 19 seasons, The Ellen DeGeneres Show is the place where celebrities who enjoyed pranks and fun new products looking for a location would find a home. But near the end, DeGeneres appeared out of tap while interviewing rising stars. She was also not above defending friends in the industry who generated controversy, or being embarrassed to attend NFL games sitting next to prominent warmonger George W. Bush.

But it was her lack of rapport with the show’s employees that ultimately led to DeGeneres’ retirement. She was accused of fostering an environment plagued by racist comments and other forms of harassment. Three executives left the show after an investigation by WarnerMedia. But none of that stopped him from bringing Winfrey, Michelle Obama and Kim Kardashian as guests in his final months.

But just because the show is over doesn’t mean DeGeneres’ career can’t keep moving forward. In her 2018 Netflix comedy special Relatable, DeGeneres proved that he still has his stand-up chops as well as good stride with the streaming giant. He also showed the edgier side of her, which has been mostly off our screens since the ’80s, with jokes about his wealth and frustration at having to dance for fans. Without the weight of daytime television on her shoulders, DeGeneres is free to be as good or bad as she wants.

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