No, this is not a joke. After a steady year of consistent criticism about the structure of The Ellen DeGeneres Show’s workplace, including allegations of rampant racism and sexism, Ellen has announced the show will officially be ending after its upcoming season. However, she doesn’t cite those criticisms or the show’s declining ratings, in the announcement. Instead, she’s chalked up her decision to end the show to a lack of creative fulfillment. “When you’re a creative person, you constantly need to be challenged, and as great as this show is, and as fun as it is, it’s just not a challenge anymore.”
That’s one way to put it.
The Hollywood Reporter conducted an interview with the host ahead of her final season. There’s a lot in it, but let’s begin with her response to those criticisms and allegations last summer, which is a stark heel-turn from her opening monologue, in which she sort of apologized.
It almost impacted the show. It was very hurtful to me. I mean, very. But if I was quitting the show because of that, I wouldn’t have come back this season. So, it’s not why I’m stopping but it was hard because I was sitting at home, it was summer, and I see a story that people have to chew gum before they talk to me and I’m like, “Okay, this is hilarious.” Then I see another story of some other ridiculous thing and then it just didn’t stop. And I wasn’t working, so I had no platform, and I didn’t want to address it on [Twitter] and I thought if I just don’t address it, it’s going to go away because it was all so stupid.
I wouldn’t classify employees alleging they were terrified of their boss and worried about being alone in rooms with producers as “hilarious” or “ridiculous” or “stupid.” But I’m also not the one with plummeting ratings and a show that’s ending! We all make our own choices.
THR says staff on Ellen were informed of its ending May 11, a day before the public announcement. Ellen herself, meanwhile, will publicly address the audience on May 13, alongside guest Oprah Winfrey. As the outlet points out, Ellen signed a three-season deal in 2018 after much prodding from friends and family, turmoil which was documented in a widely criticized New York Times profile. As it turns out, those three seasons have come to an end.
In a statement to THR, Warner Bros. Unscripted TV President Mike Darnell said of the announcement: “Although all good things must come to an end, you still have hope that truly great things never will.” He later added that “Ellen was and is an indelible piece of the television landscape, and it will be sorely missed.”
Ellen also claimed she had planned to stop after Season 16 in 2018, but Warner Bros. said they couldn’t sign a one-year deal with the host because “we can’t do that with the affiliates and the stations need more of a commitment.” Hence, the final contract promised three more seasons, which will end in 2022.
Ellen also expanded on her private conversations about ending the show:
My brother was like, “People look forward to this show every day, and there aren’t many shows out there that are just pure joy like this.” He’s always been my biggest advocate and, not that Portia isn’t, but she’s also selfish and wants me to do things that I’m challenged by and she’s watched me come home every day saying, “I just feel like there’s something more I could be doing.” I care about the environment. I care about animals. I care about design and furniture … So, definitely people have been saying, “Why don’t we just try to go a little longer?” But 19 years is a long time to do anything.
Ellen added that she has “some ideas” about what is next, even though her agent wants her to take a break. “I don’t know how long I’ll be able to do that because I’m like a Ferrari in neutral.” Those ideas include movies, conservation, and furniture:
A sitcom seems like a walk in the park compared to this, 180 shows a year. I don’t know if that’s really what I want to do next, but movies for sure. If there were a great role, I’d be able to do that, which I’m not able to do now. I’m opening up my campus in Rwanda next year and I want to be more involved with conservation and everything that matters to me as far as the environment and animals.
I’d also like to return to her claim that allegations against the show were “ridiculous” and “hilarious,” because she adds an addendum to that statement that really troubles me:
It destroyed me, honestly. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t. And it makes me really sad that there’s so much joy out there from negativity. It’s a culture now where there are just mean people, and it’s so foreign to me that people get joy out of that. Then, on the heels of it, there are allegations of a toxic workplace and, unfortunately, I learned that through the press. And at first I didn’t believe it because I know how happy everybody is here and how every guest talks about, “Man, you have a great place here. Of all the talk shows I’ve done, everyone here is so happy.” That’s all I’ve ever heard.
I find it absurd that she would take the word of guests over employees who say that they have been left hurt and jaded by their time on her show, not to mention the more serious allegations against her producers. In the ensuing interview, she calls upon the specter of cancel culture as the reason why, perhaps, ratings plummeted following the internal investigation: “This culture we’re living is [is one where] no one can make mistakes. And I don’t want to generalize because there are some bad people out there and those people shouldn’t work again but, in general, the culture today is one where you can’t learn and grow, which is, as human beings, what we’re here to do.”
OK, Ellen, sure. But this line of thinking is not just a right-wing talking point, but a strawman used to shrug off accountability. When she addressed how that workplace investigation affected her when she finally returned to the air in September 2020, she described her thought process as the criticism grew while she sat in silence on the recommendation of her team. “I don’t deserve this,” she said. “I don’t need this. I know who I am. I’m a good person.”
She ended this musing with: “Oh, the be kind lady isn’t so kind.” … I am kind, I’m also a woman and I’m a boss.” Ellen will have the rest of her career to prove that, if there’s anyone even left to see her try.