When Ellen DeGeneres began her very last show Thursday, she promised her audience of 19 years that this wasn’t the end of their relationship. “It’s more of a little break,” she said. “You can see other talk shows now, and I may see another audience every once in a while.”
Filmed on April 28, DeGeneres’ big sendoff featured the return of her first-ever guest, Jennifer Aniston, an interview with Billie Eilish (who made her daytime TV debut on Ellen in 2018) and a performance by P!NK, on hand to perform one of DeGeneres’ favorite songs. And the hour concluded the same way the series began in September 2003, with DeGeneres planted on a couch in front of a TV — only this time, instead of realizing she was on TV and set to do a show, she grabbed the remote and shut the TV off, bringing her daytime journey to a close.
“Twenty years ago when we were trying to sell the show, no one thought that this would work. Not because it was a different kind of show, but because I was different,” DeGeneres recalled. “When we started the show, I couldn’t say ‘gay.’ I was not allowed to say ‘gay.’ I say it at home a lot — you know, ‘What are we having for our gay breakfast?’ or ‘Pass the gay salt,’ or ‘Has anyone seen the gay remote?’ — but we couldn’t say ‘gay.’ I couldn’t say ‘we’ because that would imply that I was with someone. Sure couldn’t say ‘wife,’ and that’s because it wasn’t legal for gay people to get married. Now I say ‘wife’ all the time,” she said, before the camera panned to reveal Portia de Rossi.
What followed was a final dance through the studio audience, accompanied by longtime DJ tWitch.
Aniston, who was DeGeneres’ first guest, shared how she dealt with the end of her own long-running series, NBC’s Friends. She also reminisced about her two-dozen appearances and presented DeGeneres with a parting gift.
DeGeneres took a trip down memory lane that sidestepped accusations of a toxic workplace. DeGeneres had previously acknowledged the scandal during the show’s Season 18 premiere, but told The Hollywood Reporter last May that the controversy (and the subsequent hit in ratings) were not the reasons behind her pulling the plug.
“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 May 2021. She later addressed her daytime retirement on the show, adding: “You may wonder why I’ve decided to end after 19 seasons. The truth is, I always trust my instincts. My instinct told me it’s time.”
The 20-year-old Eilish, who made her daytime TV debut on Ellen, recalled how nervous she was when she first appeared on the show at 16, in 2018.
P!NK, whose “Today’s the Day!” has been used as Ellen‘s theme song since Season 13, also brought gifts. It marked her 22nd appearance alongside DeGeneres.
“God, I love her,” DeGeneres remarked, introducing the series’ very last musical act. What followed was a soulful rendition of P!NK’s 2017 hit “What About Us.”
“If I’ve done anything in the past 19 years, I hope I’ve inspired you to be yourself — your true authentic self,” DeGeneres said. “And if someone is brave enough to tell you who they are, be brave enough to support them, even if you don’t understand. They’re showing you who they are and that’s the biggest gift anybody can ever give you. By opening your heart and your mind, you’re going to be that much more compassionate, and compassion is what makes the world a better place.
“Thank you so much for being on this journey with me,” she concluded. “I feel the love and I send it back to you.”
Though Thursday marked the last broadcast, The Ellen DeGeneres Show will continue to air through the end of the summer with a combination of guest hosts, compilation shows and reruns.