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Richard Wilkins reflects on Ellen DeGeneres’ legacy as talk-show host bows out after almost two decades: ‘End of an era’

Published: (Updated: ) in Celebrity News by .

Not too many people can claim to have hosted their own award-winning daytime talk show for such a long time. Ellen DeGeneres is a member of that exclusive club.After forging a career in standup, movies and, of course, her self-titled sitcom, Ellen suff…

Not too many people can claim to have hosted their own award-winning daytime talk show for such a long time. Ellen DeGeneres is a member of that exclusive club.

After forging a career in standup, movies and, of course, her self-titled sitcom, Ellen suffered a slump in popularity once she "came out" back in 1997. It seems unthinkable by today's standards that such was the outrage and controversy at the time in Middle America. It was slim-pickings for her for a few years.

Of course her talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, which airs at midday on Nine, has won a swag of accolades — three Emmys, 20 People's Choice Awards, the prestigious and inaugural Carol Bennett Award at the Golden Globes, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Not bad for a gal from Louisiana, who found comedy as a way to escape complicated teen years when she was allegedly molested by her stepdad.

Ellen Degeneres to end her talk show in 2020

Throughout her illustrious career and despite her unquestioned success, Ellen has always attracted negative comments and criticism from within her camp. I've had the opportunity to witness some of that and interview her a couple of times. The first occasion was on the set of her show at the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, California, a decade or so ago. 

Richards Wilkins interviews Ellen DeGeneres.

It was the coldest studio I've ever been in — figuratively and literally. It wasn't just the temperature, which was freezing. I couldn't work out whether it was to counteract the heat generated by the huge screens with the lighting, or just to keep everyone on their toes. But, man, it was cold.

In fact, I assumed the dancing bit that they did at the start of every show was a way for the 200 or so audience members to limber up and thaw out a little.

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READ MORE: Ellen Degeneres to end her talk show in 2022

Ellen DeGeneres announces end of talk show.

It was the weirdest of interviews. Immediately after the credits rolled and the hysterical applause, a voiceover guy announced, "Please stay seated. Ellen's going to be interviewed by Richard Wilkins from Australia. Come down, Richard — you're on." 

So that was it, sit down mic clipped on and I must admit it was quite intimidating. The full audience witnessing the daytime talk queen being grilled mercilessly by some bloke they'd never heard of before. And I think it's fair to say Ellen likes asking questions more than she likes answering them. 

I started by reminding her that she was on our network in Australia. Bit of banter about being married to an Aussie — Portia de Rossi — a bit about her best and worst, least favourites, a couple of gags — they weren't mine — and that was it. All very professional but definitely not a warm and fuzzy experience. 

I was back there again a few years later when Pink was kind enough to give me the world exclusive announcement that she was expecting, which was quite the coup. We went to air before Ellen's show went to air — that was kind of fun. And Ellen's people were certainly very courteous when Pink and her manager, Roger Davies, asked if I could again go backstage to Pink's dressing room to do the interview with her.

The other time I was face-to-face with Ellen was when she was in Melbourne promoting Swisse products and, again, it was a very professional affair — going through the paces, giving the necessary plugs and having a couple of laughs. I actually quite enjoyed the experience. But our executive producer at the time, Neil Breen, was aghast and commented publicly that Ellen's people insisted that she would not have any contact with anyone other than me. She would walk on, do the thing, walk off — that was that. No photos, no autographs, no nothing.

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Ellen DeGeneres, Portia de Rossi, Birrarung Marr, March 26, 2013, Melbourne, Australia. DeGeneres, Australia

And I don't know whether she's shy or whatever, but the way she conducts her business certainly tends to permeate through her organisation and I was shocked at some of the claims that came out a couple of years ago, but not really surprised. Because I'm sure she's a difficult taskmaster as a lot of supremely talented people are. She clearly knows what she wants and she doesn't suffer fools badly. And I imagine she was pretty tough on her staff. In a situation like that, I would assume where there's smoke, there's certainly a bit of fire about. And whether she herself was hands-on with her staff or whether she was giving the orders to the chain of command, I'm not sure. 

Ellen certainly suffered a major hit in popularity at the time and I think it's fair to say her ratings in America never really recovered from that controversy. And the pandemic didn't help, which saw her broadcasting from home in lockdown with the producer wandering around in the garden, is not an ideal circumstance to be conducting a daytime talk show. And I think she actually made a pretty good fist of that under the extremely difficult situation. 

https://www.instagram.com/p/COywk5sDD9C/

So I, for one, will be sad to see Ellen disappear from the screen. Anyone who can get her own show up and make it a success for that long, in this toughest of businesses, deserves a massive round of applause. Ellen has certainly won a legion of fans around the world, has interviewed the biggest and best on the planet, and provided plenty of laughs to her many, many fans. 

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I thought it was kind of strange when she said she was looking for a new challenge. I would have thought making tomorrow's show better than today's show would be an ongoing challenge. But when money's no object, and she seems to be setting her sights on being a real estate mogul, I guess the sky's the limit.

Certainly the end of an era. It will be interesting to see what she says to her next-door neighbour, Oprah, when they interview each other in the next few hours. Just seeing these two together will be fascinating. Both fiercely intelligent but with widely different styles. Ellen has certainly risen to the top of her game and we salute her.

I wonder what we'll be doing at midday from now on when Ellen leaves a big hole in Nine's telecast schedule in a year's time. Congratulations to Ellen — we'll be interested to see what she comes up with next.

The Ellen DeGeneres Show airs weekdays at 12.00pm on Nine. Catch up on latest episodes on 9Now.

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Source: Entertainment News, TV and Celebrity Gossip - 9Celebrity https://celebrity.nine.com.au/latest/richard-wilkins-reflects-ellen-degeneres-legacy-ends-talk-show/5fd290da-6fc5-40c5-b2b7-6253b459489c

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