Someone else will have to remind us to be kind to one another beginning next year. Ellen DeGeneres has announce she will end her long-running eponymous talk show in 2022 following its 19th season.
The comedian host reportedly told her staff of the decision on Tuesday, May 11th. On Thursday, May 13th’s episode of Ellen, she’ll sit down with the Godmother of Daytime TV, Oprah Winfrey, to discuss the choice to go off the air. Ahead of that chat, however, DeGeneres gave The Hollywood Reporter a simple reason for stepping away: “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.”
DeGeneres first toyed with bringing the show to a close in 2018, telling The New York Times her wife, Portia de Rossi, was encouraging her to retire. However, at the best of her brother, Vance, and Warner Bros. executives, DeGeneres ended up signing on for three more seasons with the steadfast understanding that this would be her final contract.
“That’s been the plan all along,” DeGeneres told THR. “And everybody kept saying, even when I signed, ‘You know, that’s going to be 19, don’t you want to just go to 20? It’s a good number.’ So is 19 [Laughs].”
After her career was nearly tanked following a 1997 Time cover story headlined, “Yep, I’m Gay,” DeGeneres began her rise to daytime stardom when The Ellen DeGeneres Show launched in 2003. Since then, she’s filmed 180 shows a year for a total of over 3,000 episodes and some 2,400 celebrity interviews. The series has taken home 64 Daytime Emmys, while DeGeneres herself was awarded the Kennedy Center’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 2015 and given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama in 2016.
Despite the kindness ethos at the center of the show, however, The Ellen DeGeneres Show was not without controversy. Last year, a Buzzfeed report exposed a “toxic work environment” on the set, leading to a number of the series’ producers being fired. DeGeneres herself claimed to have only learned about the allegations through the media, and publicly apologized during the show’s Season 18 premiere. While that episode was one of the show’s highest rated debuts in years, viewership has since dropped considerably, with reports earlier this year indicating nearly 50% of its audience has evaporated.
Making it clear that the scandal has nothing to do with her leaving, DeGeneres said,
“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…
My whole being is about making people happy. And with the talk show, all I cared about was spreading kindness and compassion and everything I stand for was being attacked. So, it destroyed me, honestly. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t.”
She went on to say that despite the eternal investigation and resulting changes to the show, she’s distressed by a culture 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,” she continued,”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.”
As for what comes next for DeGeneres, she’s still connected to WarnerMedia through credits on things like The Masked Dancer, Ellen’s Game of Games, and Ellen’s Next Great Designer, plus her Ellen Digital Ventures projects and Discovery Channel specials and documentaries. In terms of staring scripted roles, she thinks a sitcom would be “like a walk in the park compared to this,” but she’s more interested in film — and conservation.
“If there were a great role, I’d be able to do that, which I’m not able to do now,” DeGeneres told THR. “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.”