After 19 seasons, thousands of celebrity interviews, hundreds of pranks, countless dance breaks and nearly two decades, "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" has officially come to an end.
The emotional series finale of the daytime talk series premiered Thursday, following 2020's wave of public scrutiny and reports of a toxic work environment on set. Reflecting on how much has changed over the past 19 years in her last opening monologue, a tearful DeGeneres called the show "the greatest experience I've ever had beyond my wildest imagination."
"When we started the show, I couldn't say 'gay' on the show," DeGeneres said. "I couldn't say 'we' because that implied that I was with someone. I sure couldn't say 'wife,' and that's because it wasn't legal for gay people to get married, and now I say wife all the time." (The trailblazing comedian married actor Portia de Rossi in 2008.)
"Twenty-five years ago, they canceled my sitcom because they didn't want a lesbian to be on prime time once a week," she continued. "And I said, 'OK, then I'll be on daytime every day. How about that?'"
After an obligatory dance session to the tune of the Emotions' "Best of My Love," DeGeneres welcomed one of her final guests, Jennifer Aniston, who was also the show's very first guest at the height of her "Friends" fame in 2003. Also on the finale lineup were pop musicians Pink and Billie Eilish.
"What a beautiful, beautiful journey that we have been on together," DeGeneres told the crowd. "If it has lifted you up when you're in a period of some type of pain, some type of sadness — anything that you're going through — then I have done my job."
At the end of the show, DeGeneres took a moment to thank her staff, as well as the executive producers who have been with her "since day one." The actor and comic, whose slogan is "Be kind to one another," concluded her closing remarks with a motivational message to viewers.
"I hope I've inspired you to be yourself, your true, authentic self," she said. "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 is the biggest gift anybody can ever give you.
"And 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. I feel the love, and I send it back to you."