When Oprah Winfrey ended her daytime talk show in 2011, it was a massive event that was watched by, according to Nielsen, 16.4 million people, commanding unprecedented advertising dollars for daytime television. In her final week of episodes, she was surprised on stage by Tom Hanks, Madonna, Stevie Wonder and a pre-slapper Will Smith, as she performed in front of an audience of 13,000. Fans flew to Chicago from as far away as Georgia and even Mumbai, India. the New York Times described it as TV’s greatest moment since signing Johnny Carson in 1992, and publications such as The Hollywood Reporterthe Washington Post, New York magazine and Jezebel live blogged it.
This week, as Ellen DeGeneres’ own talk show comes to an end after 19 seasons, nearly two years after allegations of a toxic backstage workplace were raised in the summer of 2020, there’s much less fanfare. One factor is that Oprah was more of a lifestyle show, with its take on things peppered with celebrity conversations, and another is that today’s viewers are more fragmented than ever; shows just aren’t pulling 2011 ratings. Still, The Ellen DeGeneres Show comes out more quietly, and this low-profile arc — no big press tour — was at least partly by design.
As DeGeneres told the Hollywood journalist in an interview published on Wednesday, she was very focused on the events as they unfolded, pondering her intention to enjoy them while they lasted. “I knew this season was going to be my last season, so I really tried to take it all in,” she said. “And it’s funny because the last two months I was more emotional than I was the last week or two. I got really emotional about two months, but last week I wasn’t. not because I really wanted to take advantage of it. I was working with [former monk] Jay Shetty a lot too, to be present and I was. I was very present for it all.”
“A delicate position to occupy”
To like Oprah, Ellen, which premiered on September 8, 2003, was a solid success. With a mix of witty banter and DeGeneres dance moves, which she showed daily at the top of the show, celebrity interviews and games with audience members, the show earned a reputation for being fun and bubbly, led by a host whose image was all about being nice. And she was beloved, landing high-profile guests and even outside gigs, like hosting the Oscars in 2007 and again in 2014, when she took a star-studded selfie that went viral.
Rumors swirled that the show was do not a nice place to work, but for a while they were just that. Then, in April 2020, Variety reported that the show’s crew were unhappy with how top producers had – and hadn’t – communicated with them amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as they hired a non-union company to help them film Ellen at DeGeneres’ home. Three months later, a Buzzfeed News report, citing former employees, described an environment where people were told not to speak to the star when they saw her and they lost their jobs after attending a family funeral . A black woman recalled a situation where a colleague told her, “I’m sorry, I only know the names of white people who work here” and other racist behavior.
At the time, the producers released a statement, which read in part, “Over nearly two decades, 3,000 episodes and employing more than 1,000 staff, we have strived to create an open work environment ,safe and inclusive.We are truly heartbroken and sorry to hear that even someone in our production family had a negative experience.It’s not who we are or what we strive to be, nor the mission Ellen has set for us.”
The show then brought in WarnerMedia’s employee relations team and a third party to investigate and by the end of August three senior producers were out as staff members were offered more liberal excuses and perks. When DeGeneres returned to the airwaves in September 2020 after the summer hiatus, she kept her promise to address allegations of toxic on-air work.
“If you’re watching because you love me, thank you,” she joked in her season-opening monologue. “If you’re watching because you don’t like me, welcome.”
DeGeneres explained that “being known as the ‘Be Kind’ woman is a tricky position to be in,” as she is “many other things too,” including sad, mad, frustrated, anxious, and impatient at various times.
“It’s me and my intention is always to be the best person I can be,” DeGeneres said. “And if I’ve ever let someone down, if I hurt their feelings, I’m so sorry. If that’s the case, I’ve let myself down… Because I always try to grow as a person, I view everything that happens in my life as an opportunity to learn.”
Despite DeGeneres’ best efforts, her show’s ratings took a hit as the season progressed, according to Nielsen research figures published in the New York Times. Between September and March 2021, the audience fell from 2.6 million to 1.5 million.
DeGeneres announced in May 2021 that her next season would be her last. She said the toxic workplace allegations and grades were not factors and the plan had always been to wrap it up when her contract expired in 2022, so she could look for new challenges. .
“Listen, it’s going to be really hard on the last day, but I also know it’s time,” she said. THR. “I’m a creative person, and when you’re a creative person, you constantly need to be challenged, which is why I decided to host the Oscars or why I decided to go back to stand- up when I didn’t think I just needed something to challenge myself in. And as awesome as this show is, and as fun as it is, it’s just not a challenge anymore. need something new to challenge me.
The last season of Ellenwhich comes like several other long-running shows, including The Wendy Williams Show, The truth, The Dr Oz Show and The doctors conclude, too, continued to feature the kind of family-friendly segments it’s known for. Audience favorites like Sophia Grace and Rosie, the little girls who first performed “Super Bass” on the show when they were just 9 and 5 years old, have returned to cover their cover of the track. by Nicki Minaj. Staff members talked about their favorite moments, and video segments recalled memorable moments, like when DeGeneres was swarmed in Central Park. The host presented actress and activist Mila Kunis with a check for $30,000 for the people of Ukraine. Julia Louis-Dreyfus applauded DeGeneres for breaking new ground as a gay comedian and putting on a show during such difficult times in the world. Stars such as former first lady Michelle Obama, Kim Kardashian, David Letterman, Serena Williams, Jennifer Lopez, Halle Berry, Salma Hayek and DeGeneres’ first-ever guest Jennifer Aniston have returned to be her latest.
One of the last people to sit across from DeGeneres was actually Winfrey herself.
“It’s the truth: there will never, ever be a moment like this,” she told DeGeneres during the May 24 episode. “I just told your team. Everyone’s like, ‘Oh, yeah, you’re gonna keep going [to do something new].’ But you’ll never, ever have a moment like this where you were in the public eye [like this] and received the joy in such a way that you all got together and it happened. There will be other things. There will be other beautiful things. But there will never be a moment like this. Know that these are the glory days.”
Winfrey said DeGeneres would be “so missed.”
“I just have to trust”
Off-screen, DeGeneres had come to a better place after an emotional struggle.
“A few months ago, a few months ago, I was crying every day,” she said. THR the day before the final. “I was really moved, even though it was my choice [to end the show], and it is the right choice. I knew it was time to end this chapter and do something different, but it was still very emotional. But I didn’t want the last two weeks to revolve around that.”
The New Orleans native said she meditates daily on her intention to be present and enjoy it. She also wanted it for her audience.
“I wanted people to remember what we brought to television with music and games and everything,” she said. “It was more of a variety show than anything, and I wanted the last two weeks to be purely fun because I struggle with anxiety and depression and know how important getting away from it all is. We are reminded every day of what is happening in the world, from a sick family member to wars, fires and global warming, there are so many different things that make you sad.
She said she had been convinced to stay three years earlier, which was, of course, before both the pandemic and the controversy. When asked, she said she doesn’t regret staying through the latter.
“I just have to believe that everything that happened during that time, which was obviously very, very difficult, happened for a reason,” DeGeneres said. “I think I learned a lot, and there were things that shocked and surprised me. It was eye-opening, but I just believed it had to happen.”
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