The complicated legacy of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”
After 19 years, Ellen DeGeneres is leaving her perch atop daytime television this week with a parade of celebrity guests to remind viewers how her “be kind” approach has come to dominate the genre. But her legacy has been shattered by an increased willingness to acknowledge her reputation as the queen of Nice with cringe-worthy, disconnected moments and allegations of a toxic work culture.
When Ellen’s show Launched in 2003, it was one of the first daytime talk shows to feature an openly gay host, reaching millions of viewers at home each day and normalizing LGBTQ representation as well as messages about equality and acceptance. . Famous for opening each show by dancing with the audience, DeGeneres quickly set about packing her show with pranks, heartbreaking interviews and viral moments to become a ratings juggernaut and an essential promotional step for top celebrities.
But DeGeneres’ star began to fade in 2019 with her defense of her friendship with George W. Bush – a president who backed a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, among other positions. anti-LGBTQ – and a softball interview with Kevin Hart after losing his Oscar hosting gig due to anti-gay tweets resurfaced. There was also the infamously awkward interview with Dakota Johnson, when DeGeneres insisted she didn’t know she was invited to the actor’s birthday party, to which Johnson responded: “That’s not the truth, Ellen.”
Then, in March 2020, comedian Kevin Porter posted a viral tweet asking people “the craziest stories you’ve heard about Ellen’s badness” in return for her donating money to the LA Regional Food Bank. The tweet generated thousands of replies that sparked a widespread internet conversation questioning the behind-the-scenes authenticity of DeGeneres’ brand of “cuteness.”
“I can’t stress the lack of foresight and insight I had in writing this tweet. It was literally just me rolling out of bed and thinking about it for three minutes before sending it,” Porter told BuzzFeed News, adding that he’d heard whispers for years about disgruntled employees on the show, “It was such a ripe topic for gossip because of the cognitive dissonance between public persona and truth and private behavior, particularly in a professional context.”
In July 2020, BuzzFeed News published a series of investigations into the toxic work environment at The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Dozens of former employees have said in interviews that they endured racist comments from their managers, were fired for taking time off for family emergencies and worked in a culture of fear and intimidation. . In total, BuzzFeed News spoke with more than 85 current and former employees who corroborated these claims.
Three executive producers – Ed Glavin, Jonathan Norman and Kevin Leman – have also faced allegations of sexual harassment or other misconduct. Norman and Leman have strongly denied the allegations. Glavin did not respond to a request for comment. All three were fired from the show in August following an internal investigation by Warner Bros.
DeGeneres initially sent an apology to her staff, saying the show was meant to be a place of “happiness” where “everyone would be treated with respect.” The talk show host also addressed the on-air allegations following his return from the Season 18 summer break, telling viewers, “As you may have heard, this summer there has been allegations of a toxic work environment on our show, and then there was an investigation. I learned that things have happened here that should never have happened.
“I take this very seriously and want to say I’m so sorry to the people who have been affected,” she continued. “I know I’m in a position of privilege and power and I’ve realized that with that comes responsibility, and I take responsibility for what happens on my show.”
But for many employees, current and former, that wasn’t enough. And the public release of what had largely been an open Hollywood secret changed people’s perception of the show. Ratings began to drop and it became more difficult to find advertisers and sponsors.
In October 2020, tracking company Nielsen reported that the ratings for The Ellen DeGeneres Show decreased by about 37% compared to the previous season. Around 1.7 million viewers on average watched the first week of Season 18 compared to Season 17 in September 2019, when around 2.7 million people tuned in. household rating, according to Nielsen.
Despite the ratings flip, DeGeneres interviewed a string of A-list stars in her final season, including Meghan Markle, Jennifer Aniston, Zac Efron, Diane Keaton, Kim and Khloé Kardashian, Kris Jenner, and even Michelle Obama.
But according to a prominent Hollywood publicist who didn’t want his name used, these celebrities are already established and have relationships with DeGeneres and her team. The promising new talent, however, hasn’t been so keen on appearing on the show.
“Once upon a time, at the height of Ellen, this show was a game-changing reservation for the careers of some burgeoning talent, talent that was really trying to get into Hollywood in a big way,” the publicist told BuzzFeed News. “It was the daytime booking to get, and often leads to late night show opportunities and magazine covers. You would prioritize this because it was so meaningful and so heavily unionized; it was a different level from booking the Today show where hello america. There was something about it that felt really premium that made it look like you had broken through and succeeded.