“The Ellen DeGeneres Show” came to an end on Thursday, wrapping a 19-season run.
“Very few stations wanted to buy the show, and here we are 20 years later celebrating this amazing journey together,” DeGeneres said during the show’s opening. “When we first started the show I couldn’t say gay.”
She added that she couldn’t say “wife,” or make any allusions to gay marriage because it wasn’t legal. Now, DeGeneres said she says wife “all the time.”
“If this show has made you smile, if it has lifted you up when you are in a period of some type of pain … then I have done my job,” DeGeneres continued. “Because of this platform we have been able to change people’s lives, and this show has forever changed my life.”
Jennifer Aniston, the show’s first-ever guest, was the last celebrity to join the show alongside performers Pink and Billie Eilish.
During her last interview with DeGeneres, Aniston opened up about how she coped when “Friends” ended in 2004 after a decade on the air.
“Well, I got a divorce and went into therapy,” she joked, a nod to her 2005 split from Brad Pitt.
When asked what she plans to do next, DeGeneres said she wasn’t sure.
“I know that I want to just lay low for a little while. I want to rest,” she responded. “And then I’ll do something again but I don’t know what it is.”
When “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” began in 2003, DeGeneres’ career was struggling after a then-controversial decision to come out as openly gay on her 1990s sitcom “Ellen.”
“25 years ago they canceled my sitcom because they didn’t want a lesbian to be on primetime once a week,” DeGeneres said during the last episode. “And I said, OK then I’ll be on daytime every day. How about that?”
The talk show helped skyrocket the comedienne to an empire of brands, becoming a household name as families tuned in across the world to view the internationally syndicated series.
“You made it OK for people to be who they are,” Pink told DeGeneres during the show.
“The Ellen DeGeneres Show” was a ratings success for much of its run. The show was known for its celebrity pranks, gift giveaways and its host’s signature dance moves.
However, DeGeneres and the show’s producers came under intense scrutiny in recent years after news reports detailed an allegedly toxic workplace. It was a stark reversal for a host with a family-friendly image — and a show that went by the motto “Be Kind.”
In a report published by BuzzFeed News in July 2020, anonymous former employees accused the show’s executive producers of harassment and claimed they experienced a culture of racism, fear and intimidation. In the wake of the BuzzFeed report, NBC News spoke to multiple former staffers who corroborated at least some of the accusations of misconduct by senior management, but they said they could not speak publicly because they were bound by nondisclosure agreements and feared retribution.
In response to the accusations, WarnerMedia — the parent company of Warner Bros. Television, which co-produced and distributed the show, launched an investigation. DeGeneres apologized to the staff and three top producers parted ways with the show.
DeGeneres announced her plans to end the show in May 2021, telling the Hollywood Reporter that the show was no longer a challenge for her.
When the show taped its final episode on April 28, DeGeneres shared her thoughts in a series of tweets.
“When we started this show in 2003, the iPhone didn’t exist,” she wrote. “Social Media didn’t exist. Gay marriage wasn’t legal. We watched the world change, sometimes for the better, sometimes not.”
She continued, “But whatever was happening, my goal was always for the show to be a place where we could all come together and laugh for an hour. Being invited into your lives has been the greatest privilege of my life and has brought me incredible joy. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
Saba Hamedy and Daniel Arkin contributed.