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Ellen DeGeneres' Talk Show Ending After 19 Seasons

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Comic and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres has announced she will end her daytime talk show next year. She's calling it quits after 19 seasons because, as she told The Hollywood Reporter, it's just not a challenge anymore. To discuss the announcement and to examine Ellen's legacy as a talk show host, we're joined now by NPR TV critic Eric Deggans.

Hey, Eric.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Hi.

CHANG: So I guess the first question I have is whether you think this decision has anything to do with the allegations from last year that the show had a toxic workplace culture. What do you think?

DEGGANS: In her interview with The Hollywood Reporter, she denied that that controversy was the reason for her decision, but she also admitted that the scandal was kind of tough on her. And, you know, BuzzFeed News published several stories last summer featuring these allegations that staffers on her show endured harassment, intimidation, racism. Several senior-level staffers left. And when she returned for the current season, she assured her fans that this public image that she has as somebody who stresses being nice was not hypocritical. We've got a clip of her talking. Let's check it out.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW")

ELLEN DEGENERES: I've played a straight woman in movies, so I'm a pretty good actress.

UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE: (Laughter).

DEGENERES: But I don't think that I'm that good that I could come out here every day for 17 years and fool you. This is me. And my intention is to always be the best person I can be.

DEGGANS: You know, I'm not sure viewers bought that, though because in March, The New York Times reported that the show had lost 1 million viewers since that apology. So it's tough to imagine that the ratings didn't have some influence on her decision.

CHANG: I mean, Ellen DeGeneres's show has often been seen as this huge triumph after her career nearly tanked when she came out as gay in 1997. Do you think it's possible that viewers just hold her to a higher standard, that there is simply less room to make mistakes when you are a gay woman?

DEGGANS: Well, I guess it's always possible, but my hunch is that the daytime talk show audience values authenticity more than anything else. And in the end, after years of telling her audience how important it was for them to be kind to one another, it turns out she wasn't making sure that was happening in her own production offices. So I think you can tell, too, when you watch the show now that she does seem kind of bored. And she's involved with producing a lot of other TV shows, including "Ellen's Game Of Games," and she seems to be chafing a little bit at the limitations of being, as she has said, quote, the "be-kind lady."

CHANG: Yeah. Well, DeGeneres will be leaving her talk show, as we said, after 19 years, after something like - what? - more than 3,000 episodes?

DEGGANS: Exactly.

CHANG: What's your sense of her legacy as a talk show host and as a performer at this point?

DEGGANS: I think her story kind of traces the history of how gay people got accepted in Hollywood - and in America - over the last 25 years or so. I mean, she publicly came out in 1997, and she lost her sitcom on ABC. But then we saw other TV shows, like "Will And Grace," kind of spread acceptance of gay people in America. Then, her talk show comes along in 2003. It gives her a new lease on show business life, and her message of kindness and having fun resonated with viewers and proved that homophobia couldn't hold her back. I think she picked up the mantle that was left by Oprah Winfrey of creating a TV show that told viewers it could help them be better people, while also entertaining them. But now, the way the show's ending, it's referencing another story, which is this reckoning underway in Hollywood over toxic workplace and harassment allegations. And as she leaves the show, you know, for some people, she's going to be a poster child for what can happen to a popular TV star if they let their workplace foster this behavior that's at odds with their public image.

CHANG: That is NPR TV critic Eric Deggans.

Thank you, Eric.

DEGGANS: Hey, thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.