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Ellen DeGeneres during the FOX Presents The iHeart Living Room Concert for America, a one-hour benefit special that aired on March 29, 2020. Credit - FOX—Getty Images
After what will ultimately be 19 years on the air, The Ellen DeGeneres Show will officially come to an end in 2022.
Why Ellen is ending her talk show
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter published on Wednesday, host Ellen DeGeneres said her choice to exit the show was years in the making. However, the announcement comes in the wake of a tumultuous year for the long-running talk show. Ratings have plummeted after allegations surfaced accusing DeGeneres and others of creating a toxic work environment on set.
DeGeneres told THR that the show no longer challenges her creatively and said she came to the decision ahead of signing a three-season contract extension in 2018. She began hosting the talk show in 2003 following the cancelation of her second sitcom, The Ellen Show, in 2002. Her first sitcom, Ellen, ran on ABC from 1994-98.
“I was going to stop [hosting Ellen] after Season 16. That was going to be my last season and they wanted to sign for four more years and I said I’d sign for maybe one,” DeGeneres said. “So, we [settled] on three more years and I knew that would be my last. That’s been the plan all along.”
Allegations of staff mistreatment
Allegations of behind-the-scenes bullying and harassment on the show were highly publicized in a July 2020 BuzzFeed News article detailing claims of a hostile workplace culture from one current and 10 former Ellen employees.
It was followed by a subsequent BuzzFeed News report in which 36 anonymous former employees alleged incidents of “harassment, sexual misconduct, and assault from top producers.” An internal investigation was launched by Warner Bros. and three high-level producers were fired. DeGeneres also reportedly apologized to her staff members in an email before addressing the allegations in the show’s Season 18 premiere on Sept. 21.
DeGeneres told the THR that her desire to move on had nothing to do with the controversy. While she said the allegations “almost impacted” the show, they aren’t the cause of her departure.
“[The accusations were] very hurtful to me,” she said. “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.”
“I learned that things happened here that never should have happened. I take that very seriously. And I want to say, I am so sorry to the people who were affected,” she said on-air in the Season 18 opener. “I know that I’m in a position of privilege and power. I realize that with that comes responsibility and I take responsibility for what happens at my show.”
While the episode garnered the highest ratings for an Ellen premiere in four years, according to Nielsen data reported by the New York Times, it was followed by the loss of more than a million viewers over the next six months.
“When it started, with that stupid ‘someone couldn’t look me in the eye’ or whatever the first thing was, it’s like a crest of a wave,” DeGeneres told THR. “Like, ‘This isn’t going to be that big of a wave.’ And then it just keeps getting bigger and bigger until it was out of control. And I really, honestly, felt like, ‘I don’t deserve this. I don’t need this. I know who I am. I’m a good person.'”
Ellen’s departure marks the end of an era
In a statement obtained by TIME, Warner Bros.’ Unscripted TV President Mike Darnell described The Ellen Show as an “indelible piece of the television landscape” that will be “sorely missed.”
“Although all good things must come to an end, you still have hope that the truly great things never will,” he said. “The Ellen Show started as the little program that could and became an absolute phenomenon. Over the years, it established itself as the premiere destination for both superstars and incredible heartfelt human interest stories. The show and Ellen brought comedy, joy, happiness, comfort (and dancing!) to countless millions every day for 18 years.”
Degeneres is set to sit down with Oprah Winfrey to discuss her departure on the May 13 episode of Ellen. The show has yet to announce a date for its Season 19 premiere.
With DeGeneres vacating her prime daytime spot, Kelly Clarkson, host of The Kelly Clarkson Show, could be poised to replace DeGeneres in the 3 p.m. time slot, according to some sources. The Kelly Clarkson Show currently airs after Ellen in most syndication markets.
The Ellen DeGeneres Show did not immediately respond to TIME’s request for comment.