Why Ellen Is Really Ending Her Talk Show (And No, It's Probably Not Because It's 'Not A Challenge Anymore')

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Ellen DeGeneres

“The Ellen DeGeneres Show” will come to an end this year after 19 seasons. The decision is said to have been in the making for several years. 

DeGeneres is one of daytime television’s most recognizable faces but the upcoming season will be the last time we see her host her talk show. 

The comedian revealed that she informed her staff about the decision on May 11 and will sit down with longtime pal, Oprah Winfrey, to discuss the news on the May 13 “Ellen” show.

Her reason for the departure? DeGeneres has said that she’s ready for a new, more challenging chapter. 

“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,” she said. 

However, rife with controversy over the past number of years, the show has likely had its share of undesirable challenges for the host. It’s possible that there may have been several motivations for bringing the talk show to a close. 

Why is ‘The Ellen Show’ ending? 

Despite DeGeneres’s assertions that the show simply isn’t challenging enough, some recent events may have expedited the decision to end the show. 

1. ‘The Ellen Show’ has been described as ‘toxic’ by staff.

In summer 2020, former employees of the show alleged racial insensitivity and bullying on the set of the hit series. 

The employees described a “toxic work environment” involving sexual harassment and verbal abuse, and questioned the host’s motto of “be kind.” 

The complaints were primarily leveraged against executive producers on the show, rather than DeGeneres herself, but the host did apologize on behalf of her team and said she takes responsibility for what goes on on-set. 

“I learned that things happened here that never should have happened. I take that very seriously, and I want to say I’m so sorry to the people who were affected,” she said. 

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2. DeGeneres’s 'Ellen Show' ratings dropped after the scandal.

When DeGeneres issued her apology in the opening episode of the season, the show had its highest ratings for a premiere in over four years. 

However, viewers’ interests clearly weren’t sustained. Ratings plummeted after the apology. 

The show lost 1 million viewers following the premiere, averaging 1.5 million viewers between September and March. These ratings were down from 2.6 million in the same period last year.

This 43% decline meant that the success of the show was surpassed by former rivals “Dr. Phil” and “Live: With Kelly and Ryan,” which both have over 2.5 million viewers. 

This loss of viewership likely contributed to the decision to terminate the show. 

3. Dakota Johnson’s iconic Ellen interview may have ended the show.

Ratings and actual scandals aside, some would argue that the root of all of DeGeneres’s scandals dates back to November 2019. 

The famously awkward interview went viral after DeGeneres accused Johnson of not inviting her to her birthday party. 

"Actually, no, that's not the truth, Ellen," Johnson said before clarifying that she had invited the host, who did not show up. Johnson also had DeGeneres’s producers back up the claim. 

We can’t say for sure that this had any impact on ratings or DeGeneres’s popularity, but it is one of the most public criticisms of the much-loved host. 

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4. DeGeneres was the target of a QAnon conspiracy theory.

Unfounded and unfactual claims that DeGeneres was on house arrest for ties to child sex trafficking circulated in May 2020, with one post garnering over 3,400 shares. 

The theory alleged that DeGeneres had been seen wearing an ankle monitor in videos shared online and that there was a police officer in her home monitoring her arrest. 

These kinds of accusations are often leveraged against politicians and celebrities by conspiracy theorist group “QAnon” who claim to have uncovered a child sex trafficking ring. 

The group claims these influential people operate the ring out of a Washington D.C. pizza restaurant and have labeled the theory “Pizzagate.” 

While untrue, the theory could have pushed some conspiracy theorists to choose to view a different daytime talk show. 

5. DeGeneres’s brand image has been damaged. 

The culmination of these scandals has likely turned some fans away from DeGeneres’s show. The host has preached about kindness for decades but recent events caused many to question her values. 

DeGeneres also acknowledged her “privilege” when apologizing to staff, but viewers had also taken issue with her lack of awareness of her own fortune. 

The host sparked backlash for “tone deaf” comments comparing quarantine to jail while isolating in her $15 million mansion.

These comments have called into question DeGeneres’s ability to encourage kindness and equality on her show.  

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Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Catch her covering all things social justice, news, and entertainment. Keep up with her Twitter for more.