As Ellen DeGeneres hosted the final episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show in May, she shared how the series — a 19-season juggernaut of bum-shaking, prize-giving and celebrity-scaring — first came to air.
"Twenty-five years ago, they cancelled my sitcom because they didn't want a lesbian to be in prime time once a week. And I said, 'OK, then I'll be on daytime every day,'" DeGeneres said.
The ending was bittersweet. DeGeneres's reputation as a fun-loving do-gooder had been questioned in the wake of accusations by former employees that her producers enabled a toxic work environment on set.
A sea of change has hit the daytime format this year as a slew of veteran hosts call it a day. As audiences flock from broadcast to streaming, the format has not seen such a shakeup since Oprah left her mantle as the queen of daytime in 2011.
Daytime will look different going forward: former Oprah producer
Last week, the belovedly offbeat Wendy Williams Show ended on a modest note — 12 seasons later — without Williams herself present. In fact, the series had been a revolving door of guest hosts since July 2021, when the former shock jock took a health-related hiatus.
Come fall, her daytime slot will be occupied by former The View co-anchor and actress Sherri Shepherd, who frequently filled in for Williams while she was on leave.
While Williams never hit Ellen-levels of popularity, she and her show were lauded and occasionally criticized for their unfiltered nature. In recent years, Williams became a popular Internet meme, with TikTok users compiling highlights and best moments.
"People think [the] talk [genre] is so easy. They think they just sit down and they can host a talk show. It's incredibly nuanced," said Candi Carter, a former producer for The Oprah Winfrey Show, The View and Tamron Hall.
"You have to be able to lead content and run a show, but also be very vulnerable and sensitive. And it's not so much about you, but enough about you that people care … you don't know who that person is until they're in the seat."
After a 31-year career, trash-talk-TV reliable Maury Povich has hung up his paternity tests: "Enough, already!" the host said in his departing statement. Queer Eye co-host Karamo Brown, a frequent guest on Maury, leads a self-help program produced by Povich's team as of this fall.
Dr. Oz left his health-lifestyle show in January. The retired surgeon and Oprah protégé, whose critics say he promotes quackery and questionable products, is running for the United States Senate. His program was replaced by daughter Daphne Oz's The Good Dish, which was cancelled shortly thereafter.
WATCH | A first promo for The Jennifer Hudson Show:
Tamron Hall took home a Daytime Emmy on Friday for her self-titled talk show, and EGOT-winning singer-actress Jennifer Hudson is working with DeGeneres's producers on a self-titled show that will premiere in September.
The question is whether these new, traditional format programs will have an audience — and where that audience will be watching them. Jada Pinkett Smith's Red Table Talk, for example, streams on Facebook Watch and typically runs under 30 minutes.
"[Daytime television is] just not as lucrative a space or as popular a space as people move to online," said Stacy Lee Kong, the founder of pop culture newsletter Friday Things.
Carter, who left her role as executive producer of Tamron Hall in 2021, said she thinks there's still an appetite for daytime; it just might look different going forward.
"It's not going to be a 30-minute show, necessarily. It's going to be a five-minute segment on a streamer or on a social media site, versus the hour-long, very expensive syndicated show that has to be sold to stations across the country. I think that model might be winding down."
Traditional format programs extend their shelf lives and audience reach on social media. DeGeneres has amassed millions of YouTube views by posting viral-friendly snippets from her show.
Think Nicki Minaj singing with young fans Sophia Grace and Rosie, or Gangnam Style singer Psy teaching Britney Spears his signature dance. Eventually, DeGeneres just started her own version of the video platform: Ellentube.
WATCH | Kelly Clarkson performs Billie Eilish song during 'Kellyoke' segment:
Pop singer Kelly Clarkson, who won seven Daytime Emmys on Friday for Season 3 of The Kelly Clarkson Show, seems to fill the void that DeGeneres left. Jovial celebrity interviews aside, clips of Clarkson covering songs by other artists, dubbed "Kellyoke," are popular on TikTok.
"Sometimes you don't want to be as serious as The View; you want something light, fluffy, frothy. And Kelly Clarkson can provide that," said Jillian Bowe, a senior editor for Daytime Confidential. Clarkson's syndicated talk show moved into DeGeneres's prime afternoon time slot this year.
Oprah's legacy endures, 11 years later
Before the Ellen show began in 2003, Oprah Winfrey's talk show had been airing since 1986 — a respectable standout among the Maurys, Ricki Lakes, Jerry Springers and Jenny Joneses of the era. By the end of its run in 2011, it was essential appointment viewing for many, a cultural behemoth.
"It was just expected that you watched Oprah in the same way that you watched the six o'clock news or you watched the 11 o'clock news," said Kong.
The television landscape has changed dramatically since Winfrey left in 2011. It's no longer a simple matter of daytime programs competing against each other, said Kong: now, "the competition is actually just everything."
"So you're not competing with other daytime TV hosts: you're competing with TikTok and Instagram and you know, whatever is happening on every other platform. So that's where the shift is, I think, a bit more obvious," she said.
It hasn't been all bad news for broadcast. In December 2020, data measurement firm Nielsen reported that the pandemic led to a boost in daytime TV viewership across North America as the professional class began working from home.
More than 26 million Canadians watch daytime television daily, the television advertisement firm ThinkTV told CBC News in an email. But the most popular daytime shows are news programs and soap operas, it said.
When Oprah's final episode aired 11 years ago, Nielsen reported that she had pulled in 16.4 million viewers. By contrast, 1.8 million viewers tuned in for Ellen's final show in May.
New dawn for Black, racialized hosts
Part of both Oprah and Ellen's legacies is that they normalized the presence of a Black woman and a lesbian woman, respectively, leading their own shows on mainstream television.
While racialized hosts on television used to be seen as a "risky investment" among executives, the emergence of Hudson, Brown, Hall and Shepherd onto the daytime scene indicates that these attitudes have evolved, Kong said.
The more opportunities that BIPOC hosts have to demonstrate success, the less prevalent that narrative will be: "'Oh, I need to get approval, or this is niche, or I need to convince you that she's worthwhile,'" Kong said.
As with any genre or program format, daytime is simply getting a shakeup, said Bowe.
"It needs to be refreshed, so to speak. I mean, you have people still asking, 'Well, who's going to be the next Oprah?'"